SNP ministers have been urged to “do everything possible to keep schools open” amid a surge in Covid-19 cases since the turn of the year.

Statistics published today by the Scottish Government shows more than 51,000 confirmed cases of the virus have been reported back since the New Year.

HeraldScotland: Confirmed reported cases of Covid-19Confirmed reported cases of Covid-19

Schools are set to re-open in the coming days with Education Secretary, Shirley-Anne Somerville, expected to update a Holyrood committee on her “current scenario planning” over whether exams go ahead this year amid the Omicron surge.

Data published on Monday showed that a daily record of 20,217 confirmed cases of coronavirus were reported back on January 3, alongside 14,080 on January 2 and 17,065 on January 1.

On Sunday night, 1,031 people were in hospital with a recently confirmed cases of Covid-19 while 38 people were in intensive care.

Before the Christmas school holidays, the number of pupils absent due to Covid-19 more than doubled in the space of a week – surging from 20,514 on December 10 to 48,557 on December 17 as the more transmissible Omicron strain became the dominant variant in Scotland.

Holyrood’s Education, Children and Young People’s Committee have written to Ms Somerville over her administration's plans for this year’s exams diet.

Committee convener, Stephen Kerr, has called for an update to be given by Wednesday.

READ MORE: Labour demands SNP draws up school safety plan to protect from Omicron variant surge

In his letter, Mr Kerr said that “scenario planning is critically important” to any alternatives needed to exams being held, adding that “requires to be undertaken early and then clearly communicated”.

He added: “The committee recognises that the Scottish Government has been undertaking scenario-planning particularly in the event that additional or significant disruption to schooling takes place in 2022.

“In the light of the spread of the Omicron variant in recent weeks, the committee requests an update on the Scottish Government’s current scenario planning for the 2022 exams diet.”

On Sunday, the Education Secretary insisted it was her “absolute priority to keep schools safely open”, but the Scottish Conservatives have called for parents and school staff to be “urgently” given clarity over what they can expect in the coming term.

Scottish Conservative shadow cabinet secretary for education, Oliver Mundell, said: “The SNP must do everything possible to keep schools open and minimise disruption.

“The SNP have ignored our calls to improve ventilation in classrooms, despite this being one of the least disruptive measures of tackling Covid transmission in schools.

READ MORE: Scotland breaks record with more than 20,000 Covid cases in a single day

“Nicola Sturgeon has refused to reduce the self-isolation period, in line with the rest of the UK, to help tackle staff absences – and teachers and pupils still don’t know what kind of assessments they’ll be facing this year.”

He added: “Parents, teachers and pupils urgently need clarity on the SNP’s plans as we move into the new term.

“The focus now must be on ensuring that Covid measures in the classroom are proportionate and justified, and that children’s learning isn’t disrupted for any longer than absolutely necessary.”

Ms Somerville has suggested that the updated guidance for schools, published on December 17, is adequate to protect pupils and staff if all rules are followed.

She said: “Safety guidance for schools was updated in December in light of Omicron and it is crucial that all the mitigations are strictly followed. These include physical distancing, one-way systems and the correct use of face coverings.

“By testing regularly and following the mitigations, pupils and staff can all play their part in keeping themselves, their families and their schools safe.”