Workers essential in maintaining lifeline services and critical national infrastructure are now able to apply to be exempt from self-isolation rules.
The Scottish Government announced the changes on Friday in an effort to ensure that staff shortages do not put key services at risk.
It means that it is now possible for people who are a close contact of an individual with Covid-19 to apply for an exemption to self-isolation where shortages could cause such a risk.
This could apply to those working in health and social care, transport, and the provision of at-risk food supplies.
Exemptions will be made on a temporary basis and last only for as long as there is an immediate risk to business or service continuity.
The Government has said that exemption will only be granted in respect of members of staff who voluntarily agree not to self isolate, and that the employers’ duty of care to all their employees must be respected.
Strict conditions will apply, with staff required to be double-vaccinated and in receipt of their second dose at least two weeks previously.
They will also require to have a negative PCR test and agree to undertake daily lateral flow tests.
Applications for exemptions may be made via the Scottish Government website.
‘We will not allow key services to be threatened by staff shortages but equally we must continue to protect public health.’Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that is was a “very limited change” and would be applied on a “case by case basis”.
She said: “It is essential that lifeline services and critical national infrastructure are maintained and we are implementing these changes now – ahead of possible changes to self-isolation rules for close contacts that may apply more generally in future – to ensure staff shortages do not put key services at risk.
“We have seen significant staff shortages in a small number of organisations in recent days and we have worked with them to protect services.
“Applications for exemptions are being considered from today and we will consider applications as they come in.”
The First Minister continued: “Clinical evidence tells us we can safely and effectively release some critical staff from self-isolation, with appropriate safeguards.
“However, this is a very limited change at this stage, to be applied on a case by case basis and only where absolutely necessary.
“We will not allow key services to be threatened by staff shortages but equally we must continue to protect public health.”
“This is cautious step in the right direction to help key industries keep Scotland moving.”Douglas Ross, Scottish Conservative leader
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross welcomed the changes, but said the SNP must be clear on exactly who will qualify for the exemption.
“This is cautious step in the right direction to help key industries keep Scotland moving,” said Ross.
“It is right Nicola Sturgeon has acted now, despite the SNP Government saying even last night that any changes would not be brought in until next month.
“However, many questions must be clarified by the SNP if these changes are to have the right effect. They must be clear on who exactly will qualify for an exemption and for how long an exemption will last for.”
The Scottish Conservative leader continued: “Ministers must also tell the public if these limited changes now will have any effect on wider potential changes to self-isolation rules under the planned lifting of all restrictions next month.
““It is right we remain cautious when it comes to public health.
“However, SNP Ministers must ensure that every resource required will be made available to guarantee companies can operate as smoothly as possible as a result of these changes.”
“I want to study the details to make sure the SNP Government have got this right.”Willie Rennie, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie added: “I have been calling for something similar for some weeks as the risk of staff absence because of self-isolation is threatening to collapse essential public services like hospitals, GP surgeries and home care.
“That would have a significant impact on the health of people across the country.
“If the safeguards are right and the risk of the spread of the virus is low then this would be a sensible step.
“I want to study the details to make sure the SNP Government have got this right.”