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Chamber and committees

COVID-19 Recovery Committee

Self Isolation Changes

Letter from Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for COVID Recovery, Scottish Government to the Convener, 5 January 2022

Dear Siobhian

Self-Isolation Changes

Following on from my letter dated 23 December, and during my most recent appearance before the committee on 23 December, I agreed to update the Committee on any amendments to the self-isolation policy in regard to the reduction of isolation period for eligible index cases. 

The First Minister has updated Parliament today on the changes being made to self-isolation policy, that will help support the economy and critical public services while still dampening transmission of Covid-19.  The existing Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) scheme that supported critical industry to minimise the impacts of isolation related absence will end, as the exemption set out in that scheme is being applied on a population wide basis. With over 75% of the population boosted and the transmission risk reduced with the appropriate safeguards around repeated testing, this has allowed us to shorten and remove the self-isolation period for many people, while continuing to have sensible measures to reduce transmission.

Reducing the isolation period for positive cases

From 6 January, all positive cases, regardless of vaccination status, will be advised to self-isolate for 10 days. However, if the individual returns two consecutive negative lateral flow device (LFD) tests taken at least 24 hours apart, with the first test no earlier than day 6, they may end isolation before the end of the 10 day period if they have no fever. 

Daily testing as an alternative to isolation

If a close contact has received three doses of a UK approved vaccination or are under 18 years and 4 months, they will be able to undertake seven daily LFD tests as an alternative to isolation, provided the tests are negative and they remain without symptoms. 

If a close contact has not received 3 doses of the vaccination, they will need to book a PCR test and even if this is a negative result, they will need to isolate for 10 days. 

Confirmatory PCR testing

As prevalence has increased and case numbers have risen, we continue to ensure that testing programmes are targeted to deliver the best public health effect. Due to current high incidence of COVID-19 in Scotland, advice will now change so that if a person tests positive on an LFD test, they should treat this as a positive test, follow the isolation guidance that applies to them, and will not need a PCR to confirm their infection.  There are exceptions to this, for instance in ensuring that people on low-incomes can evidence their infection for the Self-Isolation Support Grant.

LFD tests have an estimated specificity of at least 99.97%, meaning that fewer than 3 in every 10,000 tests will result in a false positive result, highlighting the reliability of LFD tests’ role in reducing the spread of COVID-19.

I hope the Committee finds this notification helpful. 

I am copying this message to the Presiding Officer and SPICe.

Yours sincerely,

John Swinney
Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for COVID Recovery,
Scottish Government

Associated bill

Coronavirus (Discretionary Compensation for Self-isolation) (Scotland) Bill - Stage 1