With the face of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic evolving significantly in recent weeks due to the surge of the Omicron variant, Cumbernauld Community Health Information Hub has taken time to answer some common questions many people currently have about testing, isolation and restrictions in Scotland.
Despite the excellent progress made by NHS Lanarkshire and other health boards in Scotland in terms of rolling out the vaccination programme during 2021, this wave of the pandemic has been particularly hard-hitting because of the rapid infectivity rate of Omicron.
This has resulted in Greater Cumbernauld, like most other parts of Scotland, recording its highest ever numbers of coronavirus cases over the past month.
And, amid new Scottish Government announcements and amendments to rules coming every week at present, you would be forgiven for losing track of what you are supposed to do and when you are supposed to do it to keep yourselves and others safe at this time.
So, to help clarify some key questions that are becoming rather confusing for many at present in the light of recent developments, Cumbernauld Community Health Information Hub has compiled the below question and answer guide based on latest information released by Scottish Government and Public Health Scotland.
CORONAVIRUS TESTING, ISOLATION AND RESTRICTIONS IN SCOTLAND: ANSWERS TO SOME KEY QUESTIONS
If I have COVID-19 and still produce a positive lateral flow test result on the sixth day of self-isolation, what should I do?
The new rules on leaving isolation early (after seven days instead of 10 days) don’t apply if your test negative came in on 6 January. Hence, if you tested positive before this date then you must self-isolate for the full 10 days, regardless lateral flow results on day six and seven.
After 10 days, you can leave isolation if your symptoms have gone, or if the only symptoms you still have are a cough or anosmia (a lost or changed sense of smell), which can last for weeks. If you still have a high temperature after 10 days or are otherwise unwell, you should continue to stay at home and seek medical advice.
However, as stated new rules came into place on 6 January. Anyone who tests positive on or after that date can end self-isolation after a week, but only if they don’t have a fever and test negative on a lateral flow device on day six and again at least 24 hours later on day seven.
If I have no COVID-19 symptoms and continue to test positive with a lateral flow test 10 days after my first symptoms or positive test, do I still have to self-isolate?
No, in this case you do not, because you have no symptoms. The guidance from NHS Inform says if you continue to test positive on lateral flow tests, you can return to work and your usual activities on the 11th day after your symptoms started, as long as you feel better and do not have a high temperature.
How can I obtain my COVID-19 passport?
You need a COVID-19 passport to get into certain higher-risk settings in Scotland, such as nightclubs or football matches with large crowds. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said that next week, Scottish Government will consider expanding the places where a COVID-19 passport will be needed for entry.
You can get a COVID-19 passport a few ways. One easy way is to can download the NHS Scotland COVID-19 Status app onto your mobile device, for example onto your smartphone (if you have one). Alternatively, you can download or request a copy of your vaccination status online or by phoning the COVID-19 status helpline on 0808 196 8565.
Does the three-household rule still apply to private gatherings following Christmas and New Year?
Yes, the guidance is still to limit mixing to three households. Nicola Sturgeon confirmed this when she addressed MSPs on Tuesday 11 January 2022. Before Christmas, the First Minister made what she called a ‘request’ to the public to reduce as far as possible the contacts that we have with people from other households.
She said mixing between households was not going to be banned or restricted in law, as happened before. Instead, she said Scottish Government would be issuing strong guidance to “cut down as far as possible the number of people from outside our own households with whom we interact”.
Ms Sturgeon did ask those who were going to socialise – either at home or in indoor public places – to limit each gathering to a maximum of three households, and for everyone to do a lateral flow test beforehand.
Are public transport operators in Scotland going to be obliged to reinstate social distancing and are pre-travel lateral flow tests required?
There are currently no COVID-19 capacity limits or social distancing requirements on public transport such as buses and trains in Scotland. There has been no suggestion from Scottish Government either that these will be reintroduced.
However, the legal requirement to wear a face covering on public transport remains, unless you have an approved medical exemption from wearing masks.
Equally, there is no legal requirement to take a lateral flow test before using public transport in Scotland. Nevertheless, everyone is encouraged to take a test at least twice a week and if you’re going out to work or socialise, you should take one before you leave home.
One of the main challenges for people using trains, buses, trams in the coming weeks will be the cancellation of services due to staff shortages. ScotRail, for instance, is currently running a slimmed down timetable as it struggles to cope with levels of staff absence.
Can I visit a relative who has been admitted to Monklands Hospital or Wishaw General Hospital?
As Cornerstone House Centre reported last month, NHS Lanarkshire has announced that it has suspended all but essential hospital visits in light of the rising number of cases of the new coronavirus variant Omicron across the area.
The radical step, which will affect inpatients and their families in University Hospital Monklands, University Hospital Wishaw and University Hospital Hairmyers, was taken to reduce number of people attending hospitals each day.
Visiting is, however, available in very limited circumstances. This includes people who would be distressed or suffer by not seeing a family member, patients receiving end-of-life care or those accompanying partners during childbirth, on the basis of approval of the senior charge nurse or midwife responsible for the relevant clinical area or their deputy.
The health board specified that the decision taken has been a difficult one and is because of the high rate of transmission of the Omicron variant of the virus.
For a full breakdown of the current rules and guidance on how to stay safe and help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Scotland, visit Scottish Government’s Coronavirus Information Platform online.