Scotland's Covid isolation period cut from ten days to seven
Scotland’s ten-day Covid self-isolation is to be cut to seven days in a bid to reduce damaging staff absences that have left the NHS, social care and businesses under significant strain.
The change, announced by Nicola Sturgeon during a recalled session of parliament, brings Scotland into line with England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
From midnight on January 6, there will now be an option for those who have tested positive for the virus to end isolation after seven days as long as they have no fever and record two negative lateral flow tests, on day six and a day later.
Another change to the rules will mean close contacts of positive cases - including household contacts - who are either under the age of 18 years, 4 months, or who are older than that and are fully vaccinated and boosted, will no longer need to self-isolate.
Instead, they will need to take a lateral flow test every day for seven days.
The First Minister also said that, as in England, anyone with a positive lateral flow test will now no longer need to take a PCR test to confirm the result.
Sturgeon told MSPs: "Instead, you must immediately isolate immediately and also report your result online so that Test & Protect can commence the contact tracing process and give you advice as quickly as possible."
She said the risk of a false positive lateral flow result was “very low indeed” at around just 3 in 10,000.
The SNP leader had been under growing pressure to reduce the self-isolation period, but last week pushed back the decision saying the government wanted to take "a few more days" to assess the dangers of potentially releasing people from isolation while they may still be infectious.
But today, Sturgeon said her clinical advisors now believed the benefits of cutting the time outweighed the risks.
The First Minister said Omicron was unlikely to be the last new variant and that the country would need to “adapt”.
She said: “We need to continue to adapt our thinking about how to manage the virus and become more resilient to it in the future. Let me be clear, at this stage, this does not, in my view, mean giving up on trying to control Covid completely. The impact of individual health and our collective well-being is too significant for that.
“But it does mean seeking ways of doing so that are more proportionate, more sustainable and less restrictive. There are no easy answers here, but adapting to the ongoing challenge of Covid is inescapable.”
Sturgeon said the government was working on a revised strategic framework to “set out more fully how that process of adaptation can be managed”.
She said the change in isolation rules was part of that adaptation.
She said: “We wanted to ensure that such changes are made only when in the view of clinical advisors, the benefits of them outweigh the risks of them.”
Sturgeon said the change was a “balance between the continued importance of self-isolation in breaking chains of transmission and reducing the disruption that self-isolation causes in the economy and other critical services."
Business groups welcomed the changes, with the Scottish Chambers of Commerce saying it would have "a positive impact on businesses ability to operate and allow employees to return to work safely, while also safeguarding public health".
According to the latest Scottish Government figures, 16,103 new cases of Covid-19 have been recorded in the past 24 hours.
Five deaths have been reported of someone who tested positive for the virus over the past 28 days.
Of the 69,327 new tests for Covid-19 carried out which reported results in the past 24 hours – 26.9% were positive.
A total of 42 people are currently being treated in intensive care with recently confirmed Covid-19, with 1,223 in hospital who had recently contracted the virus overall.