News

Close contacts to be offered testing

Published: 17 Feb 2021 15:00

Further testing expansion to find asymptomatic cases.

From Thursday 18 February, anyone who is identified as a close contact of somebody who has tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) will be asked to get tested.

The measure is designed to find asymptomatic cases that would otherwise go undetected, as close contacts are at higher risk than the wider population, given their exposure to somebody with COVID-19.

Previously, outbreak Incident Management Teams (IMTs) have had the ability to order testing of close contacts on a case-by-case basis, in line with local assessment of clinical risk.

Now everyone who has been identified as a close contact via the Protect Scotland app, or through manual contact tracing, will be provided with instructions on how to book a PCR test.

The approach does not replace self-isolation in any way, and close contacts who test negative will still have to complete 10 days of self-isolation, as the virus’ incubation period means the risk of developing COVID-19 is only significantly reduced 10 days after exposure.

This means anyone leaving self-isolation early could still inadvertently infect others if they become positive at a later date.

Close contacts who test positive will be asked to self-isolate for a further 10 days from the time of their test result, to ensure they are no longer infectious when they leave self-isolation.

Public Health Minister Mairi Gougeon said:

“Testing close contacts is a significant step in enhancing our public health response, as it will enable us to find asymptomatic cases that would otherwise go undetected, helping us to stop the spread of this virus through our communities.

“This is especially important given new COVID strains are more infectious, and not everyone who has coronavirus will have symptoms, so people could be spreading the disease to those around them without knowing it.

“This expansion is possible because of increases in our testing capacity, delivered through our new regional hub laboratories, which will help us suppress COVID to the lowest level in Scotland.

“However, it’s important to remember the incubation period of COVID means that a person could still test positive at a later stage in their isolation period – so a negative test does not mean you should stop self-isolating, and everyone should continue to follow the restrictions that are currently in place.”

Background

How to self-isolate effectively – Information and support for people who are asked to self-isolate because of COVID-19.

A close contact is defined as a person who, in the infectious period from 48 hours prior to and 10 days after the confirmed case’s symptom onset, or date a positive test was taken if asymptomatic, had at least one of the following types of exposure.

  1. household contact: those who share the household or have spent a significant amount of time in the house without social distancing or PPE. This also includes cleaners, even if the index case is not present due to the invasive nature of this job.
  2. direct contact: close contact outside the house without PPE, of within one metre of index case
  3. proximity contact: close contact without PPE for more than 15 minutes between 1 and 2 metres of index case

Anyone considered a close contact will be contacted by phone or text message, or will receive a notification through the Protect Scotland app.

NHS Scotland contact tracers will:

  • in some cases, send a text to let you know that you need to isolate and expect a call from NHS Scotland (if mobile is available)
  • call from a single, national telephone number – 0800 030 8012
  • always introduce themselves, tell you why they are contacting you and address you by your name
  • give you the option to call back the above number to provide reassurance that the service is legitimate

They will never ask you:

  • for information other than your movements and the people you have been physically close to
  • to phone a premium rate number
  • to make a purchase, payment or donation 
  • for your medical history unrelated to coronavirus
  • for your bank details
  • for your social media identities or login details, or those of your contacts 
  • for your passwords or PIN numbers, or to set up any
  • for control of your computer, smartphone or tablet, or to download anything
  • to visit a website that does not belong to NHS Scotland or the Scottish Government

For more information, go to: Coronavirus (COVID-19): Contact tracing in Scotland | NHS inform