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Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice for people on the Highest Risk List

Advice to help people on the Highest Risk List make informed decisions and access support services.

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Guidance for people in Scotland who were previously considered at highest risk from Covid-19

Who this guidance is for

This guidance is for people who are on Scotland’s Highest Risk List but who are no longer considered to be at higher risk than the general population.

People who are on the Highest Risk List have received a letter from the Chief Medical Officer in Scotland at some point during the pandemic to advise them they may be at highest risk if they caught Covid-19, due to a medical condition or treatment. If you are on the Highest Risk List, you may have been provided with extra advice on protecting yourself from Covid-19, or you may have been asked to shield during the early stages of the pandemic.

A review of clinical evidence shows that most people who were identified as being at highest risk from Covid-19 are now well-protected after receiving their vaccination and boosters. There are also medicines available now, such as antivirals and monoclonal antibodies, which can successfully treat people if they do catch Covid-19.

This is why the Highest Risk List will end on 31st May 2022. The Chief Medical Officer will soon write to everyone on the list, to advise if they are still considered at higher risk from Covid-19 and tell them what this means for them.

Since summer 2021, we have advised people on the Highest Risk List to follow the same public health advice as everyone else in Scotland to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Anyone with underlying health conditions should still take care to avoid catching routine coughs, colds and other respiratory viruses by washing their hands regularly, keeping a distance from people when you can, and wearing a face covering in indoor public spaces.

There is separate guidance for people who are immunosuppressed and who may still be at higher risk as a result. If you are not sure about whether your condition or treatment means you are immunosuppressed, please speak to your specialist clinician, GP or care team.

This page contains information on:

  • protective steps everyone can take
  • vaccinations
  • if you are pregnant
  • testing
  • mental health and wellbeing support

Protective steps everyone can take

All Covid-19 legal restrictions have now been lifted in Scotland, but the virus has not gone away. That’s why we recommend you:

  • get your vaccine and boosters when the NHS get in touch to make sure you are fully protected
  • open windows when socialising indoors
  • wear a face covering in indoor public places and on public transport
  • wash your hands to protect yourself
  • take a PCR test and isolate if you have symptoms
  • take an LFD test before visiting someone in a hospital or care home

Vaccinations

Vaccination is the best protection against Covid-19. Everyone in Scotland aged five and over is eligible to receive at least two doses of the vaccine.

Like some other vaccines, levels of protection may begin to reduce over time. The Covid-19 vaccine booster dose helps to extend the protection given by previous doses.

NHS Scotland will contact you to arrange appointments for vaccinations you are eligible for.

We, and the NHS would encourage everyone, including other people in your household, to get all vaccinations when offered at the earliest opportunity.  Having all doses you are eligible for may reduce your chance of catching Covid-19 and should protect you from becoming severely ill if you do catch it.

More information about Covid-19 vaccinations, who is eligible, and how to make an appointment to be vaccinated, is available on the NHS Inform website.

More information on the impact of vaccination is available in our Evidence Review.

If you are pregnant

Pregnant women are strongly advised to get vaccinated. Vaccination is the best way to protect against Covid-19 in pregnancy for both women and babies.

If you are pregnant and you develop symptoms of COVID-19, you can contact your GP, midwife or maternity team if you are concerned.

Guidance for pregnancy and Covid-19 can be found on the NHS Inform website. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) also has a range of information on COVID-19 in pregnancy and vaccination.

Testing

If you have symptoms

We advise everyone in Scotland to stay at home and avoid contact with other people if they have symptoms of a respiratory infection such as coronavirus and have a high temperature or do not feel well enough to go to work or carry out normal activities. 

Lateral Flow Device (LFD) Tests

Most people in Scotland no longer need to test when they do not have coronavirus symptoms however LFD tests are still available for specific groups of people when they do not have symptoms.

You can order LFD tests if you are:

  • visiting a hospital or a care home
  • eligible for Covid-19 treatments
  • an unpaid carer

You can get more information and order LFD tests by calling 119 or order online.

It is important to report all LFD results on the NHS Inform website, and to follow the stay at home guidance if you test positive.

If you feel unwell, contact your GP, or 111. If it’s an emergency, call 999.

Help with your mental health and wellbeing

We know that many people on the Highest Risk List have found it difficult to think of themselves as being at higher risk from Covid-19., Many people have told us they’re feeling anxious about returning to activities they used to enjoy, or lonely because they have shielded and are finding it difficult to reconnect with people or activities they used to enjoy.

If you are struggling, you may wish to talk to your GP or someone else from your clinical team, for example a physiotherapist or nurse you feel comfortable speaking with. There is support available for you – it’s important as many people as possible try to regain a better quality of life.

Connecting with You is a free service run by the British Red Cross. It’s available to all people aged 18 or over in Scotland who are experiencing issues associated with loneliness. This service can help you to reconnect with people and activities from before the pandemic. It aims to help you to build confidence in day to day things like going to the shops, to a café, or just getting out and about. Connecting with You can provide one-to-one support by phone, online, or in person. 

To arrange a phone conversation about what kind of support would be most helpful to you, contact the British Red Cross:

The following free services are available for adults:

  • NHS 24: call 111 if you need urgent support for your mental or emotional health. Open 24 hours a day
  • Breathing Space: call 0800 83 85 87 for a free, confidential, phone service for anyone in Scotland over 16. If you’re experiencing low mood, depression or anxiety, Breathing Space provides a safe and supportive space, listening, offering advice and providing information. Open Monday to Thursday: 6pm - 2am and Friday to Monday: 6pm - 6am
  • Samaritans: call 116 123 for confidential emotional support if you're in distress or despair. Open 24 hours a day
  • British Red Cross Helpline: call 0808 196 3651 if you're feeling lonely, worried, or are having difficulty accessing food or medication. Support is available in more than 200 languages. Open every day from 10am - 6pm
  • NHS Inform: find useful information about mental health on the NHS Inform website
  • Clear Your Head: find information to help you cope and advice on how you can support other people who you think might be struggling on the Clear Your Head website

The following free services are available for children and young people:

  • Aye Feel from Young Scot: find information for younger people about looking after your mental health and wellbeing on the  Young Scot website or speak to a member or staff who you can trust at your school, college or university
  • Parent Club: find information for parents and carers of younger children on the Parent Club website

This guidance applies to people living in Scotland. There is different guidance available for people living in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

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