Coronavirus (COVID-19): highest risk – interviews report – August 2021

Results from qualitative Scottish Government interviews conducted in August 2021 with people at highest clinical risk from COVID-19.

How people's lives have changed in the last two months

On 9 August 2021, Scotland moved 'beyond level zero', meaning that the majority of COVID-19 restrictions were eased and limits on the numbers of people gathering indoors and outdoors were removed. A number of baseline measures were left in place, including enhanced hand hygiene, wearing a face covering where required, self-isolation and taking a PCR test with symptoms and working from home if possible. Physical distancing in certain settings were advised but not mandatory. Those at highest risk of COVID-19 were advised to follow the same advice as the general population.

From June - August 2021, case numbers in Scotland have remained relatively high and the vaccination program in Scotland has continued as more young people have now been vaccinated.

People are still cautious about meeting those outwith their household

Despite most participants having had two doses of the vaccine, many acknowledged that this did not give them full protection against COVID-19. Most were still taking steps to reduce the number of social contacts from outside their household:

I'm still tending to decline social invites where there's a lot of people because I'm not keen to put myself in that kind of environment. Other than my parents and some immediate family, no one has been in my house and I haven't been in anyone else's house. (Participant 4)

Some participants reiterated that while they went through a period of feeling more comfortable to start doing things again, the more recent high case numbers and lifting of restrictions have meant that they are starting to be more cautious. Some participants felt that the baseline measures are not enough to protect them and so they must take extra precautions:

Recently, I've been feeling more anxious again. I'm starting to feel more isolated now than previously because of lack of restrictions and compliance, with people not wearing masks. I'm going out less than I was previously. (Participant 10)

Participants are taking additional distancing and hygiene measures to make them feel safer

Some participants said they would continue to go beyond the advice given to the general population by taking additional measures to keep themselves safe. Some examples of these include wearing a face covering in places where they are not required to do so, physical distancing, using hand sanitiser regularly, wearing gloves, wiping down groceries, not meeting people indoors and only shopping at quieter times:

I keep myself as safe as possible and follow rigorous hygiene and distancing. I use hand gel every time I touch something in the shop. I always wear a face mask and disinfect my hands and the trolley when going in and out of shops and whenever I touch money or a card. I also distance myself from people. (Participant 12)

Those at highest risk have been advised to follow some of these precautions earlier in the pandemic and it is clear that these are still playing a role in the way that people manage their risk.

Some participants are taking advantage of loosening of COVID-19 restrictions

Despite high levels of overall caution, some participants have started going out and meeting people again. Participants talked about their experiences of meeting people indoors, going out for coffee, going shopping and going to bars and restaurants.

I've started going out for dinner again. We [the family] have always gone out for a Sunday meal to the same place. They [the restaurant staff] know me and I ask for a table away from everyone else so I feel safe. I just tell myself, 'you are doing all you can to stay safe and need to live your life.' (Participant 9)



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