Scotland’s national clinical director has raised concerns with education bosses about pupils attending classes when they should be isolating after trips abroad.
Jason Leitch has told directors of education at local authorities that this, plus parents gathering outside school gates, could contribute to the spread of coronavirus.
It comes less than a week after children returned to school in Scotland, with some cases of coronavirus having already been recorded among secondary school pupils.
Mr Leitch voiced his concerns as the First Minister pledged guidance on whether older pupils will be required to wear face coverings inside school will be kept under review.
Nicola Sturgeon, asked about the issue at the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing on Monday, said the guidance produced ahead of schools reopening “makes clear if young people or staff in a school want to wear face coverings they should be supported and empowered to do that”.
She added: “Whether we should go further and change the advice on face coverings is one of these aspects that we will keep under review.”
It comes after Mr Leitch, chief medical officer Dr Gregor Smith and chief nursing officer Professor Fiona McQueen wrote to Scotland’s 32 council directors of education, as well as the heads of independent and grant-aided schools, about “one particular aspect of the return to schooling across Scotland”.
Mr Leitch said: “The Scottish Government has been informed by our directors of public health about a number of cases of children and young people being in school after recently returning from countries not exempt from quarantine rules.
“I must remind you that the law requires everyone returning to Scotland from non-exempt countries to self-isolate at home for 14 days. This includes children as well as adults.
“People self-isolating should not go out to work or to school or visit public areas.
“Scotland’s directors of education will be speaking to head teachers and heads of early learning and childcare settings today to ensure this is made clear to parents, children and young people.”
He added: “We are also concerned about people meeting up outside school settings in larger groups.
“This includes parents gathering at school gates, young people meeting friends without following the guidance on physical distancing.”
“Crucially, everyone 12 and over must physically distance from everyone outside their own household.
“People are running the risk of spreading the virus to each other, their families and their loved ones.”
Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the EIS teaching union, said recommendations for senior pupils to wear face coverings in areas where physical distancing is not possible is “important if schools are to operate safely”.
He said: “The cases of Covid infection that have been identified in some young people highlight the critical nature of adequate safeguards to protect pupils and staff from potential Covid infection at school.
“Introducing the option for all teachers to access testing was an important step, but other measures such as reducing class sizes to facilitate physical distancing are required as a matter of urgency.
“In particular, a recommendation for senior phase pupils, who are young adults, to wear face coverings where physical distancing is not possible is important if schools are to operate safely.”