Scottish Government accused of withholding information as patients denied right to know which Covid variant they have

People testing positive for Covid have demanded to be given information about which variant they have after it emerged that Scottish health officials stopped informing patients if they had contracted suspected Omicron in early December.

One parent has told how her son, who had contracted Delta in November, was forced to isolate over Christmas, along with the whole family, after he tested positive on another PCR test after displaying symptoms. However, she said Test and Protect refused to tell the family if the test indicated that the child had a new infection of Omicron, or if - as their GP suspected - he had tested positive due to residual infection from his previous illness.

Contrary to practice at the beginning of the Omicron outbreak, Scottish officials are no longer informing people if they are believed to have a case of the new variant, with phone calls to suspected Omicron patients abandoned from mid December. Omicron now accounts for the vast majority of cases in Scotland.

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

Most PCR tests in Scotland have the ability to immediately assess whether a positive test has an S-gene dropout, which indicates the infection is Omicron - with all suspected Omicron cases informed in the initial stages of the outbreak. Delta does not have an S-gene dropout. A small proportion of suspected Omicron cases are sent off for full genomic testing for the variant to be confirmed.

A member of staff takes a sample from a member of the public at a Covid-19 Test Site at Edinburgh Airport.

However, the Scottish Government has admitted officials stopped telling people if they were suspected to have Omicron on 10 December - despite Test and Protect still advising patients that they would have received a phone call if their infection was likely to be Omicron ten days later.

Opposition politicians have called for people to be given all available data on their infection – including which variant they have – and have warned that information should not be withheld.

Read More

Read More
Omicron variant symptoms in adults: How do I know if I have Omicron or Delta?

The parent said: “My son had Covid in November, which we assume was Delta. He had a test just before Christmas as we suspected Omicron, he had mild cold symptoms. He tested positive, but because they don’t tell you which variant you’ve got, we had no way of knowing whether he had Omicron or not and so we all had to isolate again for 10 days as a precaution.

"Our doctor told us it could just be positive because he still had Delta in his system. It seems ridiculous that they couldn’t tell us which he had, as they must know they were telling people with suspected Omicron when the variant first appeared. It’s going to be stressful when he goes back to school, as we have no idea if he’s immune to Omicron or not.”

Another parent said: “My daughter contracted Covid the weekend after school finished for the Christmas holiday, with a few other children in her class also testing positive. When I spoke to Test and Protect on 20 December, they told me that if it was suspected Omicron, we would have received a separate phone call. We hadn’t been called, neither had any of her classmates’ families, so we all assumed it must be Delta. However, we’ve since been told that they had actually stopped phoning people by then, though no-one seems to have told Test and Protect that. All of them had very mild symptoms, so it is possible they had Omicron, but we just don’t know.”

She added: "It does make a difference because if she has had Omicron, she is unlikely to get it again in the next few weeks, so it would mean we can relax and visit her grandparents without worrying too much about her infecting them. If she has had Delta, she could easily get Omicron again when she goes back to school this week.

"Also, it doesn’t seem right for her health records that we don’t know – it’s possible that it could be relevant in the future, especially as this strain seems so different to the others.”

Scottish Conservative shadow cabinet secretary for health, Dr Sandesh Gulhane, said: “It is important that people know and are empowered about their own health, and access to this data may help people to understand their risk of reinfection or keep track of long-term symptoms.

“Many people who have had recent PCR tests will be left feeling frustrated that useful information is being withheld. Patients should be given all available data on their infection - including which Covid variant they had.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “There is no public health reason for individuals to be told which variant they have - the protections are the same for all variants of Covid-19 in Scotland.

“If you test positive you should self-isolate, follow the advice of Test and Protect and go to nhsinform.scot for further information.”

Public Health Scotland confirmed that people with suspected cases of Omicron were no longer being informed.

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by Coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.

 0 comments

Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.