Covid Scotland: What is a close contact? How is it defined in Scotland? Will I need to self-isolate?

As Covid-19 cases continue to rise as a result of the fast-spreading Delta variant, here’s what being a close contact means and what you should do if identified as one.

Covid Scotland: What is a close contact? How is it defined in Scotland? Will I need to self-isolate? (Image: Getty Images)
Covid Scotland: What is a close contact? How is it defined in Scotland? Will I need to self-isolate? (Image: Getty Images)

Despite UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s relaxation of all legal coronavirus restrictions in England for its forthcoming ‘Freedom Day’ on July 19, many scientists and experts are still urging the public to take caution when it comes to wearing face masks in indoor public spaces, on public transport and mixing with other households indoors.

In Scotland the latest daily positive covid-19 case figures stand at 2,134 today (Monday July 12), with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon saying that fluctuations in case numbers should be expected as Scotland look ahead towards its own proposed Freedom Day.

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The Covid-19 track-and-trace app can be used to help curtail the spread of any outbreaks (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

The UK Government’s announcement has seen a further decrease in coronavirus rules, with Health Secretary Sajid Javid declaring last week (July 6) that the current requirement for fully-vaccinated close contacts of someone testing positive for covid-19 to self-isolate will no longer be in place for those in England from August 16.

Mr Javid confirmed today (July 12) that most coronavirus restrictions in England are still set to end on July 19.

Self-isolation remains in force for individuals who test positive regardless of whether they have been double-jabbed or not.

Here’s what you need to know about what a close contact is, how you will be identified as one and whether you need to self-isolate if so.

What is a close Covid contact?

A close contact is someone who has been in close proximity to someone who has Covid-19, and therefore is at risk of having the virus too and passing it onto others.

You are more likely to become a close contact if you are not adhering to social distancing rules or have been interacting with someone from outside your household in a smaller, more intimate indoor space.

According to the NHS, examples of close contact include face-to-face contact with another person within less than a metre of space for any length of time, including talking to them or being coughed on, being within 1 metre of each other for over a minute and being within 2 metres of another person for over 15 minutes in 1 day.

You could also be a close contact if you have travelled in a compact space on public transport with someone who is a positive Covid case.

How will I know if I am one?

If you have been identified as a close contact, there are a number of ways in which you might find out depending on where you live.

For those living in Scotland, you could be contacted by NHS Test & Protect after a member of their contact tracing team has been in touch with someone following their positive covid-19 test.

When you test positive for covid-19 and have had this confirmed in a PCR test result, NHS Test & Protect will get in touch with you to help identify who you might have had contact with recently.

They will contact you by phone or text message to ask you who is in your household, who you might have been in close physical contact with recently and where you have recently been.

After deciding which of the people above could have a chance of being infected, based on the time spent with you and physical proximity, they will contact these people to instruct them to self isolate and book a test.

You can find out more about this process on the NHS Inform website here.

Likewise, if you use the Protect Scotland app from NHS Test & Protect, you should be informed if you have been in contact with another app user who has tested positive for covid-19 in Scotland.

For those in England and Wales, the NHS Test and Trace app works in much the same fashion – with those identified as a close contact either receiving an email, text or phone call from NHS Test and Trace or an alert from the NHS COVID-19 app.

Alternatively, if you have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus and not alerted in one of the above ways, you should self-isolate and take a test – with the option of taking a PCR test even if you do not have symptoms available to those who have been in contact with someone with covid-19.

Should I self-isolate if I’m identified as a close contact?

Once identified as a close contact in one of these ways, you must self-isolate for 10 days – and take a PCR test if you develop symptoms during this period.

If you have been alerted by the NHS COVID-19 app, the app will tell you to isolate for 10 days and show you on a daily basis how many days you have left of your isolation period.

If you are identified as a close contact you should remain isolated for the full 10 days to prevent the further spread of the virus, with symptoms often unlikely to show themselves for an initial few days during the virus’ incubation period.

Be sure to watch out for the common covid-19 symptoms and emerging Delta variant symptoms during this period and as coronavirus restrictions in general continue to ease.

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