South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has said the extension of the current lockdown until at least the end of February will come as no surprise to people. He has also cautiously welcomed the phased return of schools from 22 February.

Subject to final confirmation in two weeks, Scotland will see early learning and childcare restarting, as well as a return to full time education for P1 to P3 and a part time return for senior phase pupils in secondary schools.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon made the announcement in the Scottish Parliament during her Covid-19 update on Tuesday. Restrictions will be reviewed again on 16 February.

Colin Smyth said: “People will not be surprised that this latest lockdown is set to continue until at least the end of February. It’s clear this virus will not be under control until vaccines are rolled out more widely, which must happen as a matter of priority.

“I know how difficult that will be to hear and that many will understandably feel worn down by living continually under more and more restrictions.

“However, parents and carers in particular will welcome the news that a phased return looks set to begin for getting children back to school. Children and young people have been missing their school friends and online learning is no substitute for being in school.

“I welcome the timetable for schools reopening but it remains a disgrace there is no routine testing for teachers being asked to work and that should happen before school return as well as consideration of vaccinations for teachers, once that has been completed for the most vulnerable.

“In the meantime, I would reiterate that any parents who are required to home school but who don’t have access to a computer to get in touch, as support for this is available. I would also urge employers to look carefully at whether they can furlough staff with childcare pressures.

“I would also say that no matter how difficult it might seem, everyone should continue to abide by the rules and stay at home as much as they can.

“As we’ve seen in the past few months, this virus has the ability to spread at alarming rates and we must do all we can to help halt that spread.

“As most businesses remain closed, the Government also needs to get its act together to get support to companies who need it. It’s one thing for the Government to announce schemes and grants but so far many of those haven’t even opened for applications, never mind paid out to businesses.”

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