Covid Scotland: Scots with virus no longer told to isolate or test

Scotland is approaching yet another milestone in its journey to a new era of the Covid pandemic.

From Sunday, Scots with symptoms of Covid will no longer be able to access free testing, have their contacts traced, or be told to self-isolate.

There will be exceptions for some vulnerable people and healthcare settings, but most people will now be asked to just deal with Covid in the same manner as other routine illnesses.

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From Sunday, only a few groups will be eligible for symptomatic Covid tests, including health and care workers, visitors to hospitals and care homes, and vulnerable groups eligible for antiviral treatments.

Many vulnerable people are worried about this change, especially those who are not eligible for antiviral treatments, but believe they should be.

The shielding list of vulnerable people will be closed on May 31, in light of the vaccination programme and new treatments for Covid.

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The Scottish Government cites its Distance Aware scheme as one reason for the list being abandoned.

A Covid lateral flow test. Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images

However, ministers have been asked to look into the efficacy of this scheme by the Scottish Parliament’s Covid-19 recovery committee, following anecdotal reports of supposed pick-up points for badges and lanyards not being aware of them.

These changes probably won’t make much difference to the average Scot, as many people abandoned testing, isolating and tracing long ago.

For those vulnerable to Covid, they will sadly make public spaces seem even more risky.

The biggest risk for the general population is that with testing mechanisms abandoned, when the next variant inevitably arrives it may not be detected before it is far too late.

It is an odd parallel, in the week when we were reminded of the awful potential consequences of not testing asymptomatic Covid patients, as a High Court ruling in England found policies around the transfer of untested patients from hospitals to care homes in the early months of the pandemic were unlawful.

Thankfully, testing will remain in healthcare settings, and the vaccination programme means elderly people are no longer at such stark risk from the disease.

But testing for Covid was a hard-won and vital weapon in the arsenal against this disease. With no negative effects – apart from waste, which hasn’t been mentioned – it is a shame to be losing it.

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