Section 1: Preventing the spread of COVID-19 in Scotland
The ongoing pandemic and the spread of the new variant means that there is a need for more significant measures as numbers of infections have increased significantly in a number of areas.
Over recent months we have learned a great deal from workplace outbreaks and the way they have been managed. Experience tells us that our behaviours will need to continue to be modified for the foreseeable future while COVID-19 remains a threat to health and wellbeing in our communities. This means that everyone should comply with prevailing regulations and guidance.
In addition everyone needs to remain vigilant and rigorously comply with FACTS:
- Face coverings in enclosed spaces;
- Avoid crowded places;
- Clean hands and surfaces regularly;
- Two metre distancing; and
- Self-isolate and book a test - if you have symptoms.
There have been significant advances in developing a successful vaccine against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The first approved vaccines are now being rolled out in accordance with the priorities established by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.
Scotland's testing capacity continues to be expanded with 22 local walk-through test centres now open. We have also opened regional testing hubs in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow to increase NHS Scotland's testing capacity.
Effective surveillance of infectious disease is an important element of the public health system in Scotland. It involves gathering and interpreting data to understand where infection is occurring, and the effect it is having on people's health. In turn, it allows us to monitor and assess how well the steps that are taken to limit infections, are working. This information is used to quickly detect outbreaks and help make decisions about how to respond and control the spread.
Surveillance includes early identification of all COVID-19 cases to allow rapid contact tracing. This is the primary method used to try to prevent spread and stop outbreaks occurring. Active intervention by local health protection teams will be needed to prevent susceptible people from becoming exposed to COVID-19.
Building a full understanding of COVID-19 requires more detail than tracking numbers of positive cases alone. It is also important to know what sort of symptoms people are experiencing, how unwell people become, and who is most likely to become more unwell. As the response to the pandemic has developed, different groups of people have been able to access testing and by linking and comparing results to other data sources we are establishing a reliable picture of the number and spread of infections.
The COVID-19 surveillance system has a number of strands that informs us about the full range of illness severity, and provides tracking over time and for key groups of the population. The knowledge of local areas and situations, provided by NHS Board Health Protection Teams (HPTs), is a crucial element of interpretation. Weighing up the importance of a change in one measurement and responding with proportionate interventions requires public health expertise. This, matched with the use of other data sources, such as from the UK Government's Joint Biosecurity Centre, supports our responses to the pandemic.
Public Health Scotland publishes a dashboard of information on the location of COVID-19 cases over time in Scotland. This dashboard is updated daily with the latest statistics on cases of coronavirus (COVID-19).
Test and Protect
Through Test and Protect, the timely identification and isolation of contacts allows us to break the chains of transmission. Combined with effective and reliable surveillance that provides information about clusters of cases, it will help us develop an early warning system that will inform our response and help us to contain any outbreaks that occur.
Test and Protect reduces the levels of community infection by interrupting the chains of transmission. To do this effectively, it is important that there is both an understanding of COVID-19 symptoms, the requirement to self-isolate when symptoms appear and the need to take appropriate action to quickly seek a test.
Maintenance of robust, representative and independent public health intelligence systems will be a core element of managing COVID-19 in Scotland. Public health and research expertise in analysing and interpreting data is critical and the Scottish COVID-19 Data and Intelligence Network will play a significant role in this as we move forward.
The Protect Scotland app will alert you if you have been in close contact with another app user who tests positive for coronavirus. And if you test positive, it can help in determining contacts that you may have otherwise missed while keeping your information private and anonymous. People can help support Test and Protect by downloading the Protect Scotland app to assist with tracing close contacts.