COVID-19 cases among young people have risen “sharply” in Scotland after schools reopened and coronavirus restrictions were dropped two weeks ago.
Data from Public Health Scotland shows that case rates have risen more than threefold for 16 and 17-year-olds since the week ending 8 August.
Weekly infections for 18 and 19-year-olds have risen fivefold, compared to the national average where the case rate has only doubled.
During a coronavirus briefing, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon cautioned that the rise in cases was partly due to a record number of tests being carried out over the same period.
She said: “It’s important to point out that case numbers are rising across the UK just now, but after a period of slower increases in Scotland the rise here is particularly sharp at the moment.
“That is possibly, at least in part, a reflection of the fact that our schools return earlier, with the increased interactions that come with that.”
Data shows that the proportion of cases testing positive for COVID-19 in educational settings account for one in six coronavirus infections in the nation.
But the proportion of staff and students being tested across schools in Scotland remains uneven.
One in four pupils aged 11 to 14 in secondary school were tested for COVID-19 in Moray, compared to Dundee and Glasgow City where fewer than one in 20 were tested for the week ending 22 August.
Similarly, more than a third of staff were being tested in Moray while only a sixth of staff at schools in Glasgow City were tested.
The rise in cases however has not led to an increase in hospital admissions among younger age groups, though it’s still early to draw firm conclusions. Admissions have previously risen with a lag of two to three weeks behind a rise in cases.
Ms Sturgeon added that the Scottish government was closely monitoring any rise in serious illnesses and “people being hospitalised”.
Government’s scientific advisers fear that schools in England are also “highly likely” to follow the trend seen in Scotland when they reopen next month.
Scientists believe pupils are likely to “represent a high proportion” of people who may get infected by the end of September.
In a statement dated 11 August, a group under SAGE, the government body that advises ministers on epidemiological issues, said “it is highly likely that exponential increases will be seen in school-attending age groups after schools open”.
But their analysis also suggests that “within-school transmission” could be reduced through increased uptake in twice weekly mass testing.
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