- Nicola Sturgeon announced self-isolation period is reduced from 10 to 7 days
- People will be allowed to leave home early if they have no fever and test negative
- England, Wales and Northern Ireland had already reduced the quarantine period
Nicola Sturgeon today slashed the coronavirus self-isolation period for people who have tested positive in Scotland from 10 days to seven.
The First Minister announced that as of midnight tonight people will be able to leave quarantine early as long as they have no fever and have two negative tests on day six and seven.
Ms Sturgeon said the initial advice to self-isolate for 10 days will remain in place, but people will now have ‘an option’ to end quarantine early on day seven.
Fully-vaccinated people who are a close contact will no longer have to self-isolate but will be required to take a lateral flow test every day for seven days.
Meanwhile, Ms Sturgeon said testing rules will change from tomorrow so that if someone tests positive on a lateral flow, but they do not have symptoms, they will not have to book a PCR test to confirm the result.
The change on self-isolation brings Scotland broadly into line with the situation in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Ms Sturgeon had been under growing pressure to slash the quarantine period as the Omicron variant wreaks havoc with critical services and businesses amid rising staff absences.
She today defended delaying making the move as she said she wanted to ensure rules are only changed ‘when in the view of clinical advisers the benefits of them outweigh the risk of them’.
Ms Sturgeon’s announcements came as new estimates from the Office for National Statistics suggested that one in 20 people in Scotland had coronavirus in the week to December 31, up from one in 40 in the week to December 23.
Delivering a Covid update to MSPs at Holyrood this afternoon, Ms Sturgeon confirmed that she is not imposing any new rules.
But she said existing measures brought in after Christmas, including a ban on large gatherings, will remain in place for the coming week, pending a review.
The SNP leader said 16,103 cases were recorded in Scotland yesterday, with 1,223 people in hospital with the disease.
The hospitalisations number is 71 more than the day before and 544 higher than at the same point last week.
She also said there had been a further five deaths, taking the total during the pandemic to 9,872.
Announcing the change on self-isolation rules, Ms Sturgeon said: ‘I said last week that it was important to consider carefully changes to self-isolation rules.
‘We wanted to ensure that such changes are made only when in the view of clinical advisers the benefits of them outweigh the risk of them.
‘I also want to make changes as far as possible in a coherent, not piecemeal manner, given the importance of clear public understanding of what is required.
‘As a result of this consideration, we are now proposing two changes to the self-isolation rules and one change to the requirement for PCR testing and all of these changes will take effect from midnight tonight.
‘The second change applies to close contacts of positive cases and this includes household contacts who are either under the age of 18 years four months or who are older than that and fully vaccinated.
‘And let me be clear, by fully vaccinated we mean first, second and booster or third doses.
‘For close contacts in these categories the requirement to self-isolate will end and be replaced by a requirement to take a lateral flow test every day for seven days.
‘Obviously if one of these tests is positive, self-isolation will then be required.
‘Anyone identified as a close contact who is over 18 years and four months and not fully vaccinated will still be asked to self-isolate for 10 days and to take a PCR test.’
Ms Sturgeon also said testing rules are being changed in Scotland from tomorrow.
She said: ‘For those who have symptoms of Covid the advice remains to book a PCR test, even if you have a positive lateral flow test and of course the advice to everyone is to test regularly with lateral flow devices, especially before meeting up with others.
‘However, from tomorrow, if your lateral flow test is positive and you do not have symptoms you will no longer be required to take a PCR test to confirm the result.
‘Instead you must immediately isolate and also report your result online so that Test and Protect can commence the contact tracing process and give you advice as quickly as possible.’
Ms Sturgeon said the changes are ‘significant and not completely without risk’, adding: ‘However, at this stage of the pandemic they strike an appropriate balance between the continued importance of self-isolation in breaking chains of transmission, and reducing the disruption self-isolation causes in the economy and critical services.’
The decision on self-isolation represented a significant change in tack from Ms Sturgeon who had rubbished the idea of cutting quarantine during a Covid briefing on December 17.
She snapped that she had been asked by a journalist if the self-isolation period could be cut to help businesses and she replied: ‘Yeah, that would really help because that would spread infection even further and that would be not doing any favours to businesses.’
England slashed the quarantine period from 10 days to seven just before Christmas.
Wales and Northern Ireland then announced last week that they were doing the same, with people able to leave self-isolation subject to negative tests on days six and seven.
Ms Sturgeon had faced repeated calls to change the rules from Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross and business chiefs.
Mr Ross tweeted after the announcement: ‘Every other part of the United Kingdom made this change, but Scotland was left as an outlier. So why did Nicola Sturgeon take so long to make this change?’