Publication - Correspondence

Coronavirus (COVID-19): minimising the risk over winter and updated protective measures for Omicron variant for care at home settings

Last updated: 25 Jan 2022 - see all updates
Published: 10 Dec 2021

Summary of updated guidance sent, in letters, to the care at home, housing support, supported housing and building-based day services sectors highlighting measures that should be taken to minimise the risk of COVID-19, including the Omicron variant.

10 Dec 2021
Coronavirus (COVID-19): minimising the risk over winter and updated protective measures for Omicron variant for care at home settings

Minimising the risk of COVID-19 transmission over the winter period

We want to first of all thank you and all your valued colleagues for your continued resilience and ongoing commitment to supporting people during the pandemic. We recognise how challenging this has been, while managing the ongoing risk of COVID-19 transmission, guidance updates and extreme pressures on resource, and understand that many of your staff may be feeling particularly fatigued after over 20 months of the pandemic . We want to reiterate our thanks and appreciation to you all for supporting each other and working together as we continue to navigate through the pandemic.

We are writing to highlight the measures that you should continue to take to minimise the risk of transmission of COVID-19, including the new Omicron variant. As you may be aware there is community transmission of Omicron within Scotland and we are urging everyone to do their part and use the tools and guidance we currently have in place to minimise the risk of COVID-19.

Infection prevention and control (IPC) - all settings

As you know IPC measures, when implemented correctly, are a key safeguard against COVID-19 and other transmittable infections. When IPC measures are relaxed, such as when masks are taken off to use the phone, or people stand closer together, especially in break-rooms, social or work gatherings or whilst car-sharing, the virus is given the opportunity to spread, which can lead to outbreaks. As the winter progresses and we manage the risk of highly infectious variants, it remains crucial that all health and social care staff pay critical attention to and remain compliant with IPC measures. We know the efforts you and your colleagues are taking to follow IPC guidance to keep people safe. However we ask that you consider any areas where this may have relaxed, and that you stringently follow the guidance contained in the Winter Respiratory IPC Addendum . This includes:

  • all staff ensure fluid resistant surgical masks (FRSM) are worn correctly over the nose and mouth at all times unless in situations as detailed in the above guidance
  • everyone follows hand hygiene practices including hand washing with liquid soap and use of hand sanitiser when removing face masks, touching surfaces and touch contact with individuals when providing care
  • ensuring rooms are ventilated as much and as frequently as possible by opening windows if temperature/weather conditions allow. Where weather conditions do not allow for windows being opened, considering if other mitigations can be applied within the area to reduce risk for e.g. where it is safe to do so, doors may be opened
  • keeping physically distant from one another, the people you are caring for or supporting, unless providing direct care / support, and their friends and family
  • avoiding car-sharing whenever possible
  • managers and leaders ensure good compliance with IPC measures through robust risk assessment and governance

We encourage you all to kindly remind each other of these measures. To support these conversations we have produced posters and social media tools called 'kind to remind'. These tools can be downloaded at: Dropbox – Posters (print)

COVID vaccinations and boosters

In addition to IPC measures, COVID-19 vaccination has played a vital role in minimising the impact of the virus and the likelihood of severe illness and hospitalisation. We thank all who have completed their two doses of the vaccination and have come forward for their booster.

Levels of protection provided by the vaccination reduce over time, it is therefore incredibly important that when eligible, we all take up offer of the booster. The COVID-19 vaccine booster dose will help extend the protection gained from the first two doses and give longer term protection. Importantly it is also known to increase in protection from Omicron substantially.

You can now get the booster dose and it will help reduce the risk of you needing to go to hospital due to coronavirus this winter.

Book your vaccination online on the NHS Inform website.

We ask that all staff protect themselves, those they care and support and the wider public by getting their booster. In particular, vaccination remains a key feature of good ante-natal care for health and social care workers.

Further information on booking your appointment, including the contact details for the vaccine helpline are available at NHS Inform.

Additionally, drop in appointments should be available in most NHS boards from this week onwards. We recommend you follow your local NHS board Facebook and social media pages to be kept up to date on where the drop in clinics are.

Further information on booking your appointment, including the contact details for the vaccine helpline are available at NHS Inform.

COVID -19 testing - (all social care staff)

Continued testing remains critical even when fully vaccinated as people can still catch COVID-19 and spread the infection when vaccinated. Early identification of cases is even more important with the new Omicron variant.

Prioritised booking slots are available at test sites for all essential workers, including health and care workers. This can be accessed by clicking to confirm you are an essential worker when booking a test online.

If you are not sure if this applies to you, there is a full list you can check. 

This is in addition to the local arrangements that are in place for weekly PCR testing for social care staff.

Omicron has a higher rate of transmission than other variants. This is of particular concern for social care staff and the individuals you provide care or support to, as they may still be more vulnerable to the COVID-19 infection. Due to this and the prevalence in the community, we are urging all social care staff to comply with their current workplace led testing. As early identification of cases is even more important with the new Omicron variant, we are encouraging you all to please take a LFD test on a daily basis, and particularly on the day you are working with potentially vulnerable people. Further guidance on workplace led testing is available through social care testing guidance. Additional LFD kits can be collected at your local pharmacy or test centre

We also continue to ask staff to record their result (positive, negative and void) on the relevant portal depending on the LFD kit .Recording test results helps us monitor prevalence of the virus and importantly the impact of the virus on the workforce.

Isolation periods - (all social care staff)

As you will be aware the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is increasing in prevalence and it is extremely likely there will be many more cases confirmed in the coming days. In light of the emerging evidence on the severity of Omicron, the level of booster vaccinations in the community and the impact of self-isolation on workforces, the First Minister (5 January 2022) announced an update to the guidance for the general public on self-isolation for index (Covid positive cases) and fully vaccinated contacts of a positive case.

As health and social care workers continue to provide health, care and support to individuals whom are often more vulnerable and of higher risk of COVID-19 infection, there will continue to be additional layers of protection in place for these settings, including increased testing. 

All health and social care providers/ employers and their staff should follow the updated policy Framework as detailed in the updated DL for COVID-19 self-isolation which has been updated to provide clarity to staff and providers on:

  • self-isolation periods 
  • testing (PCR and LFD)
  • actions that should be taken when returning to work 
  • and exemptions to testing regimes and self-isolation for certain periods of time for  those that have been Covid positive

This guidance applies to all staff whom test positive or are identified as contacts from 6 January 2022. 

The policy has been summarised on Test and Protect guidance page.

Advice for staff on activities and encounters (all social care staff)

With positive cases of the Omicron variant continuing to rise in Scotland, staff are asked to be especially careful at this time of year.For your own protection, as well as that of your friends and family, colleagues and those you support, if you mix with others we strongly recommend that you and those you are meeting take a LFD test before you meet. In line with guidance for the general public we also recommend you keep gatherings small until at least the end of January and keep your distance from people not in your group.

Supported housing: visiting activities

Visiting supported housing

As of the 24 January 2022, as announced by the First Minister, the guidance for the general public on limiting the number of households that are meeting indoors to three households has been removed. We want to reiterate the important impact meaningful contact and socialising with family and friends has on mental health and wellbeing. Supported housing settings are individuals’ homes, and unless providers are registered through the Care Inspectorate as Adult Care Homes, they were and continue to be advised to follow guidance for the general public. However, we are aware that some supported housing providers facilitate and support visits by friends and family to supported individuals who live in the tenancy. 

We ask supported housing providers who have a role in visiting and outings , to continue to enable supported individuals to continue to meet in person with their family and friends. Supported individuals and those they are meeting should follow guidance on staying safe and protecting others when meeting with individuals not in your household including LFD testing – where this can be tolerated and will not cause distress- before meeting. Supported Housing Providers, who support visiting and outings, are asked to encourage supported people to test and follow the guidance, prior to social interactions.

We also want to reiterate that there should be no restrictions placed on frequency of visiting, unless tenants are self- isolating or there is an outbreak, in which case guidance from test and protect should be followed.

Activities within shared spaces in supported housing settings

As detailed in COVID-19 supported housing guidance there are a variety of different types of communal spaces within these settings. For the purpose of this guidance, communal areas are accessible areas and can be used by multiple households, including multiple group tenancies, and/or can be used by the public. Providers should consider the functionality of the communal area, including who accesses it and how it is being accessed to inform the application of guidance and regulations. The Scottish Government rules and guidance on how to stay safe and help prevent the spread of COVID-19 has been updated to include additional measures in response to the threat of Omicron. It includes guidance for the general public and links to sector specific guidance including hospitality.

Social contact in building based day services

Adult building- based day service in guidance continues to apply. Staff working in these settings should follow the health and social care guidance on testing and self-isolation as positive covid cases or contacts of a positive covid case.

What we will continue to do to support you through the winter period (all adult social care settings)

We will continue to support you by working with our partners in Public Health Scotland, ARHAI Scotland and the Care Inspectorate, to keep you informed and update guidance in line with evidence and science, with involvement of sector representatives.

Throughout the winter period we will also continue to support you through sustainability payments resources through the wellbeing hub and access to PPE, when you and your colleagues need it.

We would like once again to thank you and your staff for your continued efforts to follow and promote these measures.

This guidance does not supersede or provide advice on matters that are governed by Part 1 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, and any legislation or guidance made under, or about, that Act, occupiers liability or other legal obligations on health and social providers to ensure that premises are generally safe for patients, residents, visitors and staff. It is important that health and social care providers seek independent advice on those matters, and if necessary, what the impact of COVID-19 may be, to ensure they are complying with any such legislation or obligations

First published: 10 Dec 2021 Last updated: 25 Jan 2022 -