EAST Lothian schools are to close at the end of the week – and may not re-open until after the summer holidays – as nationwide measures to limit the spread of coronavirus are stepped up.

Many public events in the county this spring and summer have been cancelled, including the Musselburgh Festival, while a number of employers are letting staff work from home where possible.

Some libraries have also closed and some council services are restricted.

A number of businesses are bracing themselves for significantly reduced income over the coming weeks.

However, there has also been an outpouring of community support, with groups and individuals offering to do what they can to help ensure vulnerable members of the community receive the necessary support.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said yesterday (Wednesday) that schools and nurseries across the country would close from the end of this week and might not re-open before the summer holidays.

More details are to be provided today (Thursday), including what the school closures mean for pupils sitting SQA exams and for staff.

The First Minister announced the move as it was confirmed that a third patient in Scotland had died after testing positive for Covid-19.

Ms Sturgeon said: “My view is that it is now inevitable we will close schools and nurseries . . . to pupils at the end of this week.”

In a letter issued yesterday to parents/carers, Lesley Brown, chief operating officer (education) at East Lothian Council, said this would clearly be a “very challenging time for all of us” and she “appreciated that families would be concerned about the provision of education during the period ahead”.

Councillor Norman Hampshire, depute leader of East Lothian Council, highlighted the work the local authority was doing to keep everyone safe.

He said: “This is clearly a very serious situation and we want to reassure residents, businesses and our employees that we are following national government guidance, taking advice and working with our partners including Health Protection Scotland, the NHS and our health and social care partners at this very challenging time.

“As ever, the safety and wellbeing of East Lothian residents remains our top priority.

“I realise this may be a worrying time for many in our communities but please be assured we are monitoring the situation closely and have robust plans in place.

“We have a duty of care to local people and our valued employees, while balancing the need to ensure we continue delivering critical services across our communities.

“We are taking actions to reduce service disruption as far as possible and will, of course, advise of any updates through our communication channels including the dedicated page on our website and also social media.”

Groups have been launched on social media highlighting the assistance on offer and encouraging people to do what they can to help.

Mr Hampshire added: “I continue to be impressed by the dedication and commitment of our staff. I would also like to draw attention to, and thank, the resilient communities work being established throughout the county led by community councils to support those more vulnerable.”

Local police commander Chief Inspector Neil Mitchell described the virus as “presenting an unprecedented and dynamic set of challenges”.

He said: “At the moment for East Lothian we only have a very small number of officers who are self-isolating and this has not had an impact on our response.

“However, police officers are ordinary people doing an extraordinary job.

“They too look after family and friends, many who fit into the vulnerable groups designated by the Scottish Government and some officers or staff themselves fit into this vulnerable category.

“They too are understandably concerned and we need to look after them as well.

“These are uncertain times, the coming weeks and months will be demanding, and there will be significant additional duties that we will be required to discharge; however, we have long-established plans for such events, which have been tried and tested over many years.

“I am confident that with the support of the public, we will be able to continue to provide a first-class policing response.”

Speaking yesterday afternoon (Wednesday), First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said schools would close from Monday.

The First Minister said her assumption was that Scotland’s schools would close at the end of this week, and she could not promise they would re-open before the summer holidays. She said the very difficult decision would change society and the economy, but it had been driven by updated scientific advice and the reality on the ground.

Ms Sturgeon made the announcement as she announced a rise in the number of known cases in Scotland from 195 to 227. There are 33 in the Lothians.