Covid rules Scotland: new testing and isolation guidelines explained, restrictions update - current guidance

A PCR test is also no longer required for those who are experiencing coronavirus symptoms

Self-isolation requirements have been scrapped this weekend (1 May) in favour of guidance urging Scots to “stay at home” if they are unwell, the Scottish Government has announced.

As Scotland recovers from the pandemic, the government has also announced that those experiencing coronavirus symptoms are no longer required to take a PCR test.

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Mass testing will end, with testing sites also closing and contact tracing coming to an end.

The announcement came despite Scotland having recorded 29 coronavirus-linked deaths and 2,587 cases in the past 24 hours, according to the latest figures.

But what is the new guidance, and how have the rules changed?

Here is everything you need to know.

Do I have to self-isolate if I have symptoms?

The most significant modification to the guidelines, which took effect from Sunday 1 May, is the elimination of the legal requirement to self-isolate if coronavirus symptoms are present.

Those with a fever or who are too sick to go about their usual activities are still being advised to stay at home until they feel better, but are no longer required to take a PCR test.

The guidance has also been updated for children, who should also stay at home if they have a fever and other Covid-19 symptoms.

But young people aged 18 and under who are otherwise healthy do not need to stay at home and can continue to attend school if they are suffering only from mild symptoms, such as a runny nose, sore throat or slight cough.

The Scottish Government has advised that symptoms of the virus are considered to be:

  • continuous cough
  • high temperature, fever or chills
  • loss of, or change in, your normal sense of taste or smell
  • shortness of breath
  • unexplained tiredness, lack of energy
  • muscle aches or pains
  • unusual hunger
  • headaches
  • sore throat, stuffy or runny nose
  • diarrhoea, feeling sick or being sick

More information on the Scottish Government’s updated guidance can be found here.

On 1 May, self-isolation requirements were repealed in favour of advice advising Scots to ‘stay at home’ (Photo: Jane Barlow-Pool/Getty Images)

What if I test positive for Covid-19?

If you do take a Covid-19 test and the result is positive, you should follow revised guidance to stay at home for three days if you're 18 years and under, or for five days if you're over 18 years.

The way that these should be counted has changed: Day 1 is the day after you took your test.

What if I am a close contact?

(Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Because they are most likely to have continuous close contact, those who live in the same household as someone with coronavirus are at the greatest risk of becoming infected.

People who stayed overnight in the home of a coronavirus-infected person when they were infectious are likewise at risk.

It can take up to 10 days for an infection to develop if you're a household or overnight contact; if you develop symptoms of a respiratory infection, follow the guidance for people with symptoms (stay at home and avoid contact with other people).

How do the changes affect the self-isolation payment?

The self-isolation support grant - designed to help those on low incomes to self-isolate - has reduced from £500 to £225 from 1 May, after changes to the mean adults only have to stay at home for five days if they test positive.

Those applying for the self-isolation grant are among the people still eligible for a free test.

Close contacts of those who have tested positive are no longer eligible for the payment, and payments are now limited to three per claimant.

More information can be found here.

What else has changed?

The Protect Scotland contact tracing app will be shut down "shortly," although Scots are advised to keep the app on their phones in case it is needed again.

And the NHS in Scotland has been taken off an emergency footing from the end of Saturday 30 April.

Testing for the general population in Scotland has ended, with testing sites also closing and contact tracing coming to an end.

Tests will continue to be available for Scots who work in the health or social care sectors, are visiting hospitals or care homes or are receiving treatment, unpaid carers or people in prison.

More information on the Scottish Government’s updated guidance can be found here.

Could self-isolation rules come back?

Despite the significant rule changes to self-isolation, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has warned that the coronavirus outbreak is far from over.

Although the country is progressing in the right direction, she asked the public to be “sensible” when it comes to the virus.

Speaking during a campaign visit to a community centre in Glasgow, Sturgeon said: “It’s not the end of the pandemic. I think we’ve got to be clear that this virus is still with us.

“We see in other parts of the world it’s still causing a lot of problems and case levels here in Scotland remain high. The pressure on the National Health Service is still significant.”

Linda Bauld, a public health expert, told BBC Good Morning Scotland that If a new variant "really challenged the progress made, measures may need to be reevaluated.

The Edinburgh University professor said: “Essentially we are moving to a stage now where we are less worried about infection and what we’re focusing on is trying to find people who have the virus, who need support or are supporting those who are most vulnerable.

She added: “We’re kind of moving to a stage where we’re treating this a bit like other viruses which I know not everyone agrees with.”