How will Scotland’s coronavirus test-and-trace system work?

The Scottish Government's test, trace and isolate programme will go live from Thursday.

Test and Protect will go live from Thursday. Getty Images
Test and Protect will go live from Thursday.

The Scottish Government’s test, trace and isolate programme – labelled Test and Protect – will go live from Thursday.

Under the new system, Scots will be expected to be tested for Covid-19 if they show symptoms of the disease – and if they test positive they will be asked to supply details of anyone they could have passed it on to.

Those people will then be contacted by the team of tracers and asked to self-isolate for 14 days.

How will it work?

Anyone over the age of five who develops symptoms of coronavirus – a cough, fever, or a loss or change in sense of smell or taste – should book a test.

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This can be done through the NHS Inform website or by calling 0800 028 2816.

They should then self-isolate for seven days, while others in the household should self-isolate for 14 days.

If you test positive, you will be asked to provide details of all recent close contacts to NHS contact tracers.

“Close contact” includes members of your household, people you have had face-to-face contact with within one metre, and people you have been in contact with at a distance of less than two metres for 15 minutes or more.

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Those contacted will be asked to isolate for 14 days and to book a test if they develop symptoms.

If a contacted person does not have symptoms, other people in their household will not have to self-isolate.

What if I live in a rural area?

Testing can be booked at a drive through testing centre and there are several mobile testing units.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the Government is looking at ways to expand local testing to include testing done at home by a health professional or other trained person.

How will privacy be protected?

Sturgeon said that people’s privacy “will be respected at all times during this process”.

She said the information provided will be “held securely within the NHS and used only for the purposes of tracing your contacts”.

The Scottish Government will not have access to the information and all the work of identifying and tracing contacts will be done within the NHS.

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Those contacted by tracers will not be told the name of the person who tested positive.

What about my work?

If you are at work when you are contacted you should immediately head home.

Employers have been instructed by the Scottish Government to support anyone who is asked to self-isolate through Test and Protect.

You may be asked to work at home but should not be asked by your employer to go into work.

How will it be enforced?

Asked about enforcing test and trace, Sturgeon said that while the situation will be “kept under review” she expects the public will comply with the programme as they have done so far with lockdown measures.

Interim chief medical officer Dr Gregor Smith said that contract tracing is not a new step in public health and that “by and large” the feeling has been that people are willing to take part and share details.

A Scottish Government public engagement exercise on test and trace found: “There was a suggestion for enforced centralised isolation for those who tested positive for the virus – but others again raised human rights concerns around this, as well as highlighting how this could put people off self-reporting.”

What about the contact tracing app?

The UK Government is testing a contact tracing app on the Isle of Wight and plans to roll it out in June.

But the Scottish Government has no plans to use the app.

Scotland’s national clinical director Jason Leitch previously said it will only be recommended if the First Minister is confident it works and is secure.

At the daily coronavirus briefing on Tuesday, Sturgeon said the Government is seeking to learn from other countries and “at some point in the future” the idea of a proximity app may have a role to play. 

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