Key workers in Scotland given exemption from self-isolation rules

Workers in critical roles in Scotland will be able to avoid self-isolation when notified by the NHS Covid app if they are fully vaccinated and are tested daily, Nicola Sturgeon has announced.

Scotland’s first minister said it was “essential that lifeline services and critical national infrastructure are maintained” and that the changes would ensure staff shortages do not put key services at risk.

Sectors such as health and social care, transport and food supply have been badly affected by the “pingdemic”, in which those who receive a notification from the NHS are ordinarily required to self-isolate at home.

Affected industries will have to apply to the Scottish government for staff to be given exemption from the mandatory quarantine rules. In those cases where work is deemed to be essential, close contacts of infected people will not be required to isolate.

If the government deems that a critical role is exempt, the worker will still have to prove they have had two doses of coronavirus vaccine at least two weeks before close contact with an infected person, have a negative PCR test and agree to carry out lateral flow tests for 10 days after the contact.

Scotland’s Covid rules shifted to their lowest level on Monday, but the country still has fixed limits on the numbers of people in social gatherings, unlike in England.

Face coverings in shops and on public transport are also still mandatory in Scotland. Groups of 10 people from up to four different households can now meet in pubs and restaurants. Up to eight people from four households can meet in private homes, and up to 15 people from 15 households can meet outdoors.

Sturgeon said: “Clinical evidence tells us we can safely and effectively release some critical staff from self-isolation, with appropriate safeguards. However, this is a very limited change at this stage, to be applied on a case-by-case basis and only where absolutely necessary.

“We will not allow key services to be threatened by staff shortages, but equally we must continue to protect public health.”

The government says that any exemption process for healthcare, social care and local services will be different and announced at a date that has yet to be confirmed.

Sturgeon also said it was possible that changes to self-isolation rules for close contacts may apply more generally in future.

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