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Staying safe during coronavirus

Although we’ve now moved beyond level 0 and most coronavirus restrictions have been lifted, unfortunately the virus hasn’t gone away. 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 COVID-19?

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 the law. However, 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 limits on how many people I can meet up with?

There are no longer any limits on the number of people or households we can meet with indoors or outdoors. However, it’s still a good idea to limit the number of other households you see each day, and to meet outdoors if you can. The fewer people we meet, the less chance we have of catching or passing on the virus. So try to limit contact to the friends and family you really want to see!

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. 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?

You should isolate if ANY of the following apply to you:

  • You or anyone in your household has any of the symptoms of coronavirus. Everyone in the household aged 5 or over should isolate until the symptomatic person/people has been tested and has received the results.
  • You or anyone in your household has tested positive for coronavirus. The person who tested positive must self-isolate for 10 days from when their symptoms started or from the date of their test, even if they don’t have symptoms. Everyone else in the household should also isolate and book a test. If the result is positive, they must self-isolate for 10 days from when they took the test. If the result is negative, they may only leave self-isolation if they remain free of symptoms and are fully vaccinated, with at least 14 days since the second dose of the vaccine. They can also leave self-isolation if they’re aged 5-17 and test negative and remain symptom free. If anyone develops symptoms after receiving a negative results, they must self-isolate and book another PCR test. Children under the age of 5 who are close contacts are also encouraged to take a PCR test, but we understand that children under this age find it more difficult to tolerate the test. However they must take a test if they display any of the symptoms of the virus.
  • You are contacted by Test and Protect. If you are contacted by Test and Protect as a close contact of someone who has tested positive for coronavirus, you should self-isolate and book a PCR test straightaway, even if you don’t have any symptoms (see 'What if I've been in close contact with someone with symptoms?' 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 at all. 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.

If we all follow these rules, however difficult, then fewer people will die of this virus than would otherwise be the case.

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 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, you must stay at home except to get tested (see ‘How do I get a coronavirus test?’ below). Everyone aged 5 and over who lives with you should also isolate until you get the test results. If you need something, ask someone out with your household to get it for you or have it delivered and left at your front door.

If the results are negative

If the test results are negative, everyone can stop isolating.

If the results are positive

If the test results are positive, you must self-isolate for 10 days. You can leave the house after 10 days if you're improving and you no longer have a temperature. If you still have a temperature, you shouldn’t leave the house until 48 hours after it has gone down. It's okay to leave the house after 10 days, even if you still have a cough.

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

You will also be contacted by Test and Protect so that close contacts can be identified. The Test and Protect process is confidential, and your close contacts will not be told that it was you that they were in contact with unless you give permission to have your name shared. 

These close contacts, as well as everyone in your household, will be asked to self-isolate and book a PCR test, even if they don’t have any symptoms. (See ‘What if I’ve been in close contact with someone with symptoms?’ below.)

If the result is positive, they must self-isolate for 10 days from the date of the test. If the result of their PCR test is negative, whether or not they need to continue to self-isolate depends on their situation:

  • If they’ve had two COVID-19 vaccinations and it’s two weeks or more since their second jab and they don’t have any symptoms, they can stop self-isolating. 
  • If they’re aged 18 years and 4 months, or over, and not fully vaccinated, they’ll still need to self-isolate for 10 days. 
  • If they’re under 18 and they don't have any symptoms, they won’t need to isolate. 

However, if anyone later develops symptoms, they’ll need to take another PCR test.

How do I get a coronavirus test?

If you have coronavirus symptoms, or have been asked to book a test by Test and Protect, you should book a test online on the NHS Inform website. If you can’t book online, you can call 119. Anyone who has symptoms, or who has been in close contact with someone who tests positive, can be tested, including children. These 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.

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 twice-weekly testing, 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 symptoms?

If Test and Protect gets in touch with you because you have been in close contact with someone with coronavirus, you’ll also be asked to self-isolate and book a PCR test, even if you don’t have any symptoms. This will help more cases to be identified, and slow the spread of the virus.

  • If you have had two COVID-19 vaccinations and it is 2 weeks or more since your second jab and you don’t have any symptoms and you test negative you can stop self-isolating. 
  • If you are not fully vaccinated and are aged 18 years and 4 months or over, you’ll still need to self-isolate for 10 days, even if the test is negative.
  • If you’re under 18 and you test negative and have no symptoms, you can stop self-isolating.
  • If you test positive, you’ll need to isolate for 10 days from the date of your test.

There is an exception to the requirement to receive a negative PCR test for children aged under 5 and other children who for medical reasons are unable to test or are exempt. While it’s a good idea for under 5s to get a PCR test if possible, they don’t have to isolate if they don’t have a test. This reflects the lower risks of infection and transmission in this age group, and the fact that younger children may find it harder to tolerate testing.

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

If you develop coronavirus symptoms, you must get tested again. This also applies to children under the age of 5.

If you do not 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 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.

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