No reason for Scottish teachers to switch off Covid app, says Nicola Sturgeon

There is no reason for teachers to be told to turn off the coronavirus contact tracing app on their mobile phones, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

A teacher during a history lesson. Picture: David Davies/PA Wire
A teacher during a history lesson. Picture: David Davies/PA Wire

The declaration comes after it was reported education bosses at Aberdeen City Council told staff to disable the app while they were working inside schools.

A letter to teachers in the area reportedly said school staff could be notified as having been in contact with someone with Covid-19 "even when a public health investigation of the full circumstances may have identified no close contact".

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It added: "Public health colleagues have suggested that school staff should disable to remove the app while working in school buildings as the app is not able to identify when robust mitigations have been in place."

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Ms Sturgeon said she did "not have all the details" of what happened in Aberdeen, but said there may have been an incident when several people were notified after their phones were left together inside a school.

She said: "We shouldn't be asking people to switch off the app in my view when they have their phone with them, that is defeating the purpose of Protect Scotland."

The First Minister added: "I don't know what the basis for Aberdeen City Council's advice is.

"I cannot be clearer. If you are a teacher in a school there is no reason I can think of you would be routinely advised to turn that app off and there is every reason I can think of why that would be the wrong advice to give."

Ms Sturgeon, who was asked about the issue at the Scottish Government's coronavirus briefing yesterday, said: "I would encourage people wherever possible, if you have got the app on your phone, keep your phone with you and keep it turned on.

"If you have got an app on the phone that is to assist with contact tracing people who might have been exposed to the virus, your default advice is to tell people to keep it on and to keep the phone with them as far as possible.

"Let me be very clear, the Protect Scotland app only works and is only effective if you download it to your phone, you keep it switched on and you have your phone with you."

She added: "If it is on and running when your phone is away from you it may still get alerts, but obviously that will not mean you have been close to someone with the virus.

"So keep your phone with you, keep the app on and keep Protect Scotland on your phone."

An Aberdeen City Council spokeswoman said: "We have been working closely with public health officials locally and have agreed an enhanced level of PPE equipment for teachers and classroom assistants which is above that in the national guidance.

"Discussions also been carried out with trade unions.

"The health, safety and wellbeing of our staff and pupils is our highest priority and we are happy to provide additional medical-grade PPE to our teachers and classroom assistants who may require to be within two metres of a pupil or member of staff."

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