People showing coronavirus symptoms will not be routinely tested for the infection any more, the Scottish Government has announced.
Those with “mild” symptoms of the Covid-19 illness should no longer seek medical help unless their condition deteriorates, according to new advice.
Only those admitted to hospital with flu-like symptoms and breathing difficulties, NHS staff and “key workers”, will be routinely tested for Covid-19 as part of the updated testing policy.
Scotland’s chief medical officer said the move to “surveillance testing” as part of the delay-phase response means that people with “mild symptoms” no longer need to be tested.
It is claimed expanded surveillance testing at GP surgeries “will provide real-time information on how the virus is spreading in Scotland”, although at this stage it is unclear how it will work in practice.
People with symptoms of the coronavirus infection, which include repeated dry coughing and a fever or high temperature, are being told to self-isolate for seven days and only seek medical help if their condition worsens.
The total number of people in Scotland with the infection will therefore not be known, and it is not known how or if the Government will publish figures for confirmed cases.
As of Saturday afternoon there were 121 confirmed cases of coronavirus, up from 85 on Friday, with one death.
The UK’s Covid-19 death toll rose on Saturday from 11 to 21, while the number of people testing positive for the disease passed the 1,000 mark.
Dr Catherine Calderwood said: “This new approach to testing will enable us to understand the pattern and spread of coronavirus in the community, to develop a clear assessment of the situation and to predict the peak number of cases, without having to test everyone with possible symptoms.
“Those with mild symptoms do not need to be tested. They should continue to stay at home for seven days and only contact their GP or 111 if their condition worsens.
“Everybody has a role to play in helping contain this outbreak by following the latest health advice and basic hygiene precautions such as washing hands frequently, not touching their face and covering their nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.”
The updated testing policy will still see people admitted to hospital with symptoms tested to confirm whether they have the virus.
NHS staff and other workers described by the Government as “key” will also continue to be tested if they show symptoms.
In a letter to Scotland’s health boards about the changes to testing, Dr Calderwood said that all people with a continuous cough or a high temperature above 37.8C, regardless of their travel history or contact with confirmed cases, should be told to stay at home for a week.
They will not be tested.
Whether a person has travelled abroad is no longer relevant or important for diagnosis, the advice says.
“Those with mild symptoms do not need to call their GP or NHS24,” it says, adding: “Testing will not be offered routinely to individuals staying at home.
“Patients who require overnight admission to hospital should still be tested if they present with either clinical or radiological evidence of pneumonia, or acute respiratory distress syndrome or influenza-like illness.”