Scotland’s COVID-19 Testing Strategy

Testing approach adapts as prevalence changes.

The Scottish Government has published its updated Testing Strategy setting out the role testing continues to play in tackling coronavirus (COVID-19).

The strategy focuses on a number of key areas of testing:

  • whole population testing of anyone with symptoms (Test & Protect)
  • proactive case finding by testing contacts and testing in outbreaks
  • protecting the vulnerable and preventing outbreaks in high risk settings by routine testing
  • testing for direct patient care, to diagnose and to treat, and to support safe patient care as NHS services restart
  • surveillance to understand the disease, track prevalence, understand transmission and monitor key sectors

A key development to strengthen surveillance work and help prevent the spread of the virus will be for all contacts of COVID-19 index cases to be offered testing regardless of whether they have symptoms. At present, recent close contacts of those people with a positive test result, are asked to isolate for 14 days. While they will still have to do this, they will now also be advised to get a test, allowing for further contacts to be identified and potential, wider outbreaks contained.

In addition, from September, Scotland will participate in the ONS Covid-19 Infection Survey which is currently operating in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. This represents the single biggest expansion to date of asymptomatic testing for surveillance purposes in the pandemic. The survey will eventually see approximately 15,000 individuals in Scotland tested during every two-week rolling period. This equates to approximately 9,000 households. 

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said:

“The publication of our Testing Strategy clearly sets out the role of testing in our response to COVID-19, which will continue to evolve as the scientific and clinical understanding of the virus develops.

“We know that meeting this challenge requires a comprehensive set of public health measures to drive the number of cases down – intelligence, anticipation, prevention, mitigation and response and clearly testing has a crucial role – it allows us to get ahead of the curve and track down and contain the virus as far as possible.

“We will continue to adapt our testing strategy in line with the different stages of the pandemic.  However, testing is only one effective intervention that we are using to manage the virus and it remains vital that people continue to follow physical distancing advice and practise good hand and cough hygiene not just for their own safety but in order to protect others.”


Scotland's Testing Strategy

Test and Protect was rolled out across Scotland on 28 May 2020.

People with any of the following symptoms should self-isolate and book a test at or call 0800 028 2816 if they are unable to access the online service:

  • a high temperature or fever
    •    a new continuous cough
    •    a loss of, or change in sense of smell or taste


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