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Coronavirus / Contact tracing scheme to start on Thursday

NHS SHETLAND says it will be ready for the ‘test and protect’ regime which is to start on Thursday to help suppress coronavirus as the country eases out of lockdown.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon today (Tuesday) outlined the scheme which will be fully operational across all NHS health boards in Scotland. It builds on plans already announced by Westminster.

NHS Shetland public health consultant Susan Laidlaw said that the isles’ public health team had been ready to contact trace locally for several weeks, “but we have had no new cases.”

She said: “We expect that the expansion of testing through the UK Government scheme may identify new cases, and we also need to be prepared should there be new cases due to the relaxation of restrictions.

Susan Laidlaw.

“Additional staff have been trained in order to increase capacity in the public health team to undertake contact tracing, bringing capacity to 13 staff available immediately and more can be brought in if required. All these staff are all doing other work until such time as they are needed for contact tracing.”

The system is supposed to help suppress coronavirus transmission as lockdown rules are slowly relaxed.

Under the scheme, anyone exhibiting Covid-19 symptoms of fever, persistent cough, or loss or change of taste and smell should report immediately by phoning NHS 24 or by Internet on NHS Inform.

They will also be eligible for testing, and if positive, a confidential contact tracing programme will go ahead.

Sturgeon said that test and protect would only work if the “same spirit of care and solidarity for each other” the public had shown during lockdown was continued.

She added: “Test and protect is really important for us. Although it is vital it cannot do all the work in suppressing the coronavirus on its own (…) it will only be effective if people [showing symptoms] all come forward for testing and if they self-isolate when asked to do so.”

More details about the scheme and how it will be implemented will be publicised later this week.

Other measures remain in place, like anyone with coronavirus symptoms should stay at home for seven days, unless going to attend a test, and people they share a house with should self-isolate for 14 days, and if they start showing symptoms, must also be tested.

Sturgeon said that a pool of 2,000 contact tracers had been set up nationally, although it is expected only 700 will be involved initially.

The latest statistics show no increase in those positively tested for coronavirus in Shetland, while there were 29 more cases throughout the whole of Scotland, for a total of 15,185.

There were 18 more deaths in the last 24 hours and a cumulative total of 3,589 people who had tested positive had been able to leave hospital by this morning.