What is a close contact? Will close contacts have to self-isolate under new Covid Scotland rules?

As new daily coronavirus cases reach record highs in Scotland, here’s what it means to be identified as a close contact and whether you will need to self-isolate.

What is a close contact? Will close contacts have to self-isolate under new Covid Scotland rules? (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

A record high number of Covid cases were recorded in Scotland on Sunday 29 August, the highest since the pandemic began with 7,113 new cases announced by the Scottish Government.

Earlier in the month, Scotland moved out of Level 0 restrictions on August 9, in what became the final step in the government’s route out of lockdown.

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While face masks remain mandatory in some public spaces, the bulk of Covid-19 restrictions still in force in Scotland are set to be removed next week.

The restrictions on physical distancing and limits to the size of social gatherings have been removed, and nightclubs are allowed to reopen.

Large-scale events can resume - but organisers of outdoor events for more than 5,000 people and indoor events for more than 2,000 have to apply for permission.

Self-isolation rules are among those which has seen a number of changes, as the UK and Scottish governments look to address recent spikes in people being ‘pinged’ by Covid-19 contact tracing apps.

However, 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 could be identified as one and what the new rules in Scotland mean for close contact self-isolation.

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?

Under current rules across the UK, those identified as a close contact in one of the above ways must self-isolate for a full 10 days to prevent the spread of the virus, with symptoms often unlikely to show themselves for an initial few days during the virus’ incubation period.

If you develop any Covid symptoms during this period you should get a PCR test.

Changing coronavirus restrictions in England, Wales and Scotland, however, mean that self-isolation rules for those identified as close contacts is changing.

In Scotland, adults who have been identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive won’t have to automatically self-isolate after August 9, the First Minister announced on Tuesday.

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Those identified as close contacts who have received both doses of a Covid-19 vaccine and have no symptoms are instructed to get a PCR test as soon as possible.

The period of self-isolation can then be ended after receiving a negative PCR test result.

The same policy will apply to children between the ages of 5 and 17, with a young person identified as a close contact in this age bracket required to take a PCR test and receive a negative result in order to end their self-isolation.

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