SCOTLAND’s clinical director has suggested that social distancing could be reviewed if the “prevalence level” of the virus reduces – but has warned it is not yet appropriate to cut the two-metre rule in half to help the return of education.

Northern Ireland is reducing the social distancing rule in schools to one metre, but Scotland’s national clinical director, Professor Jason Leitch, believes the nation is not in a position to follow suit.

Most pupils in Northern Ireland are set for a return to full-time education after the summer holidays as ministers agreed to cut the social distancing measure to one metre between pupils, though it will remain double that for teachers.

In Scotland, schools will reopen on August 11 but with children having a mix of face-to-face teaching in classrooms and the rest of their learning done at home.

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Asked on BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme why it is safe for schools to reopen with one-metre distancing measures in Northern Ireland but not in Scotland, Prof Leitch warned that "it's not as binary as that”.

He added: "The Scottish Government has taken a view that what we will do is we will look again at that guidance and we will look at it of course in place in schools, in shops, in each of the sectors, and we will in time decide what we should do about that single intervention.

"It's important to layer that intervention on all the other things that are happening, the hand washing, the cough etiquette, the face coverings and everything else, it's taken on a little bit of an iconic status and I understand why.

"We're not in a position right now to adjust that distance and we will advise the First Minister what we think should happen in the next couple of weeks and then the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister in charge of education will make a judgment."

Nicola Sturgeon said on Wednesday that schools may be able to open with "nearer normality" in August, depending on how successful efforts to suppress coronavirus have been.

Prof Leitch said that while he does not think the science on social distancing is going to change, the prevalence of the virus can help inform decisions.

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He said: "When you reach a prevalence level in the society then you will be able to make choices about that distance and about whether you can have contact with your granny.

"Everything depends on the level of the virus in the country and on having a reliable test and protect system to allow us to catch the positive cases and get them to self-isolate to reduce those chains of transmission."

Scottish Conservative finance spokesman Murdo Fraser said Scotland should consider the one-metre rule in schools.

He said: "I would look at the evidence that has led Northern Ireland to take that decision, because the long-term harm that will be done to children's education and the economy will be enormous if we don't allow schools to fully reopen in August."