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Staying safe during coronavirus

Unfortunately coronavirus hasn’t gone away yet. So it’s still very important to take care not to spread it. We’ve put together some information on how to protect yourself, your family and others. 

You can find the latest health information on the NHS Inform website and the latest updates on restrictions and staying safe on the website.

What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

The most common symptoms are:

  • a new continuous cough
  • a fever or high temperature (37.8C or greater)
  • loss of, or change in, sense of smell or taste (anosmia).

A new continuous cough is where you:

  • have a new cough that’s lasted for an hour
  • have had 3 or more episodes of coughing in 24 hours
  • are coughing more than usual.

A high temperature is feeling hot to the touch on your chest or back (you don’t need to measure your temperature). You may feel warm, cold or shivery.

How can I protect myself and others from coronavirus?

Anyone can spread coronavirus. To save lives, here are some important things to remember:

In addition you should also download the Protect Scotland app. This free app from NHS Scotland’s Test and Protect is designed to help us protect each other and further reduce the spread of coronavirus. You can find out more about the Protect Scotland app here.

How can I keep everything clean and hygienic during coronavirus?

It’s important to:

  • wash your hands with soap and water or use a hand sanitiser regularly throughout the day. This is particularly important when you get home or into work, when you blow your nose or cough, and when you eat or handle food. Although don't use alcohol-based hand sanitiser on babies under 1 year old.
  • catch your cough or sneeze in tissue, bin it, then wash your hands.
  • avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces in your home.
  • avoid touching surfaces when you're out and about.

We all know we need to wash our hands for at least 20 seconds, but how long is that? Soap-A-Sheep is a fun online game you can play with your kids to help you realise 20 seconds is longer than you think!

However hard we try to stop them, kids always end up sticking their fingers in their mouths and up their noses. Each time they do this, try to get them to wash their hands and wipe down any surfaces. 

If you're out of the house, try and keep their hands away from their faces as best as you can.

Do I still need to stay 1 metre apart from people outside my household?

Physical distancing (staying 1 metre away from anyone who isn’t part of your household) is no longer required. However, some business premises and venues may still ask you to distance, so make sure you always follow any signs when you're out and about. In general, it’s a good idea to continue to keep your distance from other people, especially when you’re indoors. This will help keep everyone safe, and help prevent the virus from spreading.

Are there any limits on how many people I can meet up with?

There are currently no limits on the number of people or households you can meet at home and in public places. However, the fewer people we meet, the less chance we have of passing on the virus. So try to limit contact to the friends and family you really need to see, and meet outside if you can. 

Even if you don’t have symptoms it's important to take regular lateral flow tests, especially before mixing with other people. 

Do we still have to wear face coverings?

Yes. Face coverings are still required on public transport for those over 12 years old and in other indoor public places. Wearing a face covering a helps to reduce the spread of coronavirus. Our page on face coverings has more information.

Are there any restrictions on childcare?

No, there are no longer any restrictions on childcare, but you must not send your children to a childcare setting if they have any COVID-19 symptoms. Our page on does my child need a COVID-19 test has more information.

Why is good ventilation important?

Good ventilation (letting fresh air into your home) is an important way of preventing the spread of coronavirus. When people who have coronavirus breathe, speak, cough or sneeze, this releases tiny particles of the virus into the air. If other people breathe these particles in, they can catch the virus. When you open doors or windows or window vents, as well as letting fresh air in you are also letting out stale air that may contain virus particles. 

We know as the weather gets colder the thought of letting cold air in when we’re trying to keep our homes warm isn’t appealing, but even opening your window a wee bit (for example, keeping it on the latch) or for just 5 minutes can help dispel the virus without making your home too cold.

It’s particularly important to keep doors and windows open as much as you can if:

  • anyone in your home has coronavirus, or 
  • you’re indoors with people you don’t live with, or
  • you’re sharing a car with people you don’t live with.

It’s always best to meet people outdoors if you can, as this is safer than meeting indoors.

What is Test and Protect?

Test and Protect is Scotland's approach to preventing the spread of coronavirus in the community. It prevents the spread of coronavirus in the community by:

  • identifying cases of coronavirus through testing
  • tracing the people who may have become infected by spending time in close contact with them
  • supporting those close contacts to self-isolate, so that if they have the virus they are less likely transmit it to others.

You can find out more about Test and Protect here.

When do I need to self-isolate?

The rules on self-isolation changed on 6 January. You should isolate if ANY of the following apply to you:

  • You have any of the symptoms of coronavirus. 
  • You test positive for coronavirus. (See ‘What if I test positive?’ below). 
  • You are aged over 18 years and 4 months and aren’t fully vaccinated (to be fully vaccinated you must have received both doses of the vaccine, plus a booster dose, and 14 days have passed since your booster dose) and have been in close contact with someone who’s tested positive for coronavirus (See ‘What if I’ve been in close contact with someone with coronavirus?’ below.)

If you're not sure, this guide from NHS Inform can help you work out when you need to self-isolate and for how long.

If you’re self-isolating, you shouldn’t leave your home. You can find out more about what to do when you’re self-isolating on the NHS Inform website.

If you’ve been told to self-isolate by Test and Protect, you may be eligible for a Self-Isolation Support Grant

You may also need to quarantine if you’ve been abroad. You can find out more on the Scottish Government website.

Complying with self-isolation when asked to do so is crucial in reducing transmission of COVID-19 and ultimately saving lives.

Who counts as a 'close contact'?

For adults aged 18 and over, a close contact is someone you’ve had direct contact with at a distance of less than one metre, or have had contact with for longer than 15 minutes within 2 metres.

For children and young people, a high-risk close contact includes:

  • household members
  • anybody they've had unusually close or prolonged contact with (for example, an overnight stay)
  • where close personal care has been provided (for example, for children and young people with additional support needs, and without the use of appropriate PPE). 

All other contacts of positive child cases are considered to be low-risk, for example staff and pupils who have had ‘business-as-usual’ contacts in the same class as the positive case. These people will be identified and informed through the information letter, which schools will take forward as soon as they are informed of positive cases in either staff or pupils. 

Can I get help if I need to self-isolate?

Support is available to help you to self-isolate. You can either phone the National Coronavirus Helpline on 0800 111 4000 visit the NHS Inform website to find out more. 

If you’ve been told to self-isolate by Test and Protect, you may be eligible for a Self-Isolation Support Grant. On 7 December 2020 the rules for claiming this grant changed so that:

  • you can now claim if you are unable to work because one of your children has to self-isolate from school or nursery
  • you can now claim even if you don’t receive universal credit, but your local authority believes you would receive it if you applied for it.

You can find out more about financial support during COVID-19 here.

What should I do if I develop coronavirus symptoms?

If you develop symptoms of coronavirus and are not already self-isolating after a positive LFD test you must stay at home except to get a PCR test (see ‘How do I get a coronavirus test?’ below).

Anyone who lives with you, for example any siblings, should either self-isolate or take daily LFD tests while you’re waiting for the results of your PCR test (See ‘What if I’ve been a close contact with someone with coronavirus?’ below). 

Once the PCR test result is known, if the result is negative, you no longer need to self-isolate, and the people you live with no longer need to isolate or take daily tests. See 'What if I test positive?' below for advice on what to do if the result is positive.

If you need something, ask someone who is not self-isolating to get it for you or have it delivered and left at your front door.

How do I get a coronavirus test?

If you have coronavirus symptoms, or have been asked to book a PCR test by Test and Protect, you should book a PCR test online on the NHS Inform website. If you can’t book online, you can call 119.

You can book a PCR test if:

  • you have coronavirus symptoms and are not already self-isolating after a positive LFD test 
  • you’re a close contact of someone who’s tested positive and you’re over 18 years and 4 months and not fully vaccinated
  • you need to apply for the Self-Isolation Support Grant.

These PCR tests can be completed through any of the existing testing routes including drive-in Regional Testing Centres, Mobile Testing Units and by ordering a home test kit. Our page on COVID-19 testing for children as more information.

What if I test positive?

If you receive a positive test result from either a PCR or Lateral Flow Device (LFD) test, you’re advised to self-isolate for 10 days. However, if you return two consecutive negative LFD tests taken at least 24 hours apart, with the first test no earlier than day 6, you may end isolation before the end of the 10 day period if you have no fever. If you still have a temperature, you shouldn’t leave the house until 48 hours after it’s gone down.

Close contacts in your household who are fully vaccinated, having received 3 doses of the vaccine (plus 14 days) or are aged under 18 years and 4 months, can take daily LFD tests for 7 days instead of self-isolating, as long as the tests are negative and they remain without symptoms. If someone 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.

Everyone in your household should do their best to keep their distance from you. For example, you should eat and sleep separately from others if you can, and keep everything as clean as possible. Our page on COVID-19 tests for children has advice on what to do if your child tests positive.

If you test positive from a LFD test you no longer need to get a PCR test to confirm the result. Instead you should self-isolate and report your result online as soon as possible, and follow the instructions you’re then sent. It’s crucial LFD tests are reported to enable the Scottish Government to understand the prevalence of COVID-19 in the country and, for those with positive results, so the correct advice can be given to you and those you’ve been in close contact with, to prevent the virus spreading further. 

If you don't have symptoms and you self-isolate as a result of a positive LFD test, but you develop symptoms while self-isolating, you don't need to book a confirmatory PCR test.

However, if someone who is self-isolating because they have a positive LFD test result or are the parent/guardian or carer of a positive case, and will be applying for a Self-Isolation Support Grant, a confirmatory PCR is required for eligibility.

Can I get a test if I don’t have any symptoms?

Yes. Everyone in Scotland now has access to free, fast, regular testing.

Around 1 in 3 people with COVID-19 don’t show symptoms, so can spread the virus to others without knowing. It’s worrying to think we could be passing the virus on to our friends and loved ones without even realising. Regular testing using lateral flow devices (LFDs) will help find positive cases in people who have no symptoms, but who are still infectious. If you test positive, you must then self-isolate so you don’t pass it on to anyone else and help break the chain of transmission.

As parents, you can get rapid lateral flow devices (LFDs) for regular testing at home, if:

  • you do not have COVID-19 symptoms
  • you live in Scotland
  • you have not been told to self-isolate.

You can view a video on NHS Inform which shows you how to take the test.

Please note that children and young people who are attending secondary school should continue to access LFD testing through their schools, as is currently the case. The universal testing offer does not replace the schools testing programme for people without symptoms. You can find out more about testing in schools here.

You can find out more about how and where to get LFD testing at the Scottish Government website.

What if I've been in close contact with someone with coronavirus?

If Test and Protect gets in touch with you because you’ve been in close contact with someone with coronavirus, you may need to self-isolate:

  • If you’re fully vaccinated or under 18 years and 4 months old, you don’t have to self-isolate. However, you must do a Lateral Flow test every day for 7 days and report the results. You don't need to self-isolate if your daily LFD tests are all negative. If you get a positive LFD test, you should self-isolate and follow the guidance for positive cases.
  • If you develop symptoms you should self-isolate immediately and book a PCR test. If you test positive, you need to follow the advice above (see ‘What if I test positive?’).
  • If you’re over 18 years and 4 months and not yet fully vaccinated, you must book a PCR test and isolate for 10 days, even if you get a negative result.

If you’ve been identified by NHS contact tracers as having been in close contact with a person with coronavirus, you won’t be told who it is you’ve been in contact with unless the person with coronavirus has given permission to contact tracers.

If you don't have symptoms yourself and are self-isolating as a close contact of someone with coronavirus, other people in your own household won’t be asked to isolate along with you. This is unless they have also been in close contact with a person who is a confirmed case, in which case they will be informed by Test and Protect.

You can find out more about contact tracing and self-isolation on the NHS Inform website.

Are people still being advised to shield?

At the beginning of the pandemic, people who are at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus were advised to shield. This was to minimise the chance of catching the virus. Shielding was paused from 1 August. However, the Scottish Government is advising people who were shielding to take extra precautions. You can find out more about this at the Scottish Government website.

Getting the coronavirus vaccine

The coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine is your best protection against coronavirus. So to keep yourself, your family and your community safe, NHS Scotland recommends that you get both doses of the vaccine and a third booster when you’re offered it. You can find out more about the vaccine on the NHS Inform website. You can find out more about the vaccine for young people aged 12-17 here.

Watch this video for some useful facts about the vaccine.

How can I look after my family's mental health at this time?

The past year and a half have been tough, so it’s all the more important to look after your family’s mental health. Whatever your situation, we have some useful advice here:

You can also find advice on the Mind website about coronavirus and your wellbeing.

Can my child have a party with their friends?

We’re currently being advised to limit the number of households we see at one time to 3. So you might think about postponing a party and having a fun family day out instead. However, if you do decide to have a party for your child’s birthday or another special occasion, it’s a good idea to:

  • restrict guests to children from the same class or class bubble, to prevent wider mixing, and keep the numbers as low as you can
  • ask parents not to attend with their children, if possible
  • ask everyone attending to do a Lateral Flow test before they come
  • have the party outside if at all possible
  • if the party is indoors, open windows and doors as much as you can to let fresh air in and the virus out
  • make sure everyone washes their hands and uses hand sanitiser regularly.

I'm pregnant, what should I do?

We realise this is a worrying time to be pregnant. You can find further advice on our page about pregnancy and coronavirus and on the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists website.

Information in BSL

You can find information on coronavirus in British Sign Language (BSL) on the British Deaf Association website