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Coronavirus / NHS Shetland starts testing and tracing scheme

THE UK Government’s expanded coronavirus testing scheme is now available in Shetland, where anyone with recent onset of symptoms of Covid-19 can self-refer for a test that is done at home.

Under the scheme, test kits are delivered to the patient’s house and the test is done with an oral swab before being posted to a laboratory in Glasgow. The results will be sent back to the patient within “24 to 48 hours”.

But health leaders stress that anyone who suspects they have coronavirus must immediately self-isolate and that means staying at home with no trips for food or medicine – that will be delivered to the patient’s home. Members of their household will also have to self-isolate for 14 days and stay at home.

The NHS Shetland test scheme accompanies launch of the “Test and Protect” programme throughout Scotland and comes as some work and social distancing rules are set to be relaxed as of tomorrow (Friday).

Symptomatic individuals and their households must continue to self-isolate until they receive their result. If the result is ‘not detected’, or negative, then they can stop self-isolating. If the result is ‘detected’, or positive, then they must continue to self-isolate for at least seven days.

The scheme is open to those over five-years-old. People who have a positive result will be contacted by the Public Health contact tracing team.

The steps involved in the scheme are:

  • Individuals with symptoms (or on behalf of someone with symptoms) can complete a self-referral form here. They can also phone 01595 532030 to self-refer between 9am-12.30pm and 2-5pm week days;
  • Once the referral form is completed and submitted, a local administrator will check the person meets the criteria regarding their symptoms and that the swab will be able to be carried out within five days of the onset of those symptoms;
  • There will also be a check at this point if the individual would actually be eligible under the NHS testing scheme as high priority (and if so, the request will be rerouted accordingly and the swab analysis done in the laboratory in the Gilbert Bain Hospital);
  • The administrator will arrange for a self-swabbing kit to be delivered to the individual, who then does the swab at home themselves following the detailed instructions. The individual will be advised how the kit will be collected from their house as this will vary depending on where they live;
  • The swabs will be transported to the Lighthouse Laboratory in Glasgow;
  • Results should be back 24-48 hours after the sample arrives in the Glasgow laboratory. The individual will be contacted by the local NHS co-ordinator with their results.

Further details can be found on the NHS Shetland website.

The NHS is asking people not use the UK Government Testing Scheme website to request a test as they would be directed to a test in the UK mainland.

The three recognised symptoms for coronavirus are a new continuous cough, high temperature or loss of sense of taste or smell.

According to the NHS, the Glasgow Lighthouse Laboratory has enormous capacity and “we are therefore very keen to use it.”

An unattributed statement from the NHS said: “The technical aspects and logistics of this scheme have been very challenging to adapt and implement in Shetland which is why it has taken longer than we would have liked to get started.”

The NHS said the scheme “will be carefully monitored and the details of how it works may change over time. However we were keen to get the scheme up and running as soon as possible to ensure that people in Shetland also have the ability to self-refer for testing.”

It added that “ideally” the swab should be taken within three days of symptoms starting, but the test is still reliable up to five days.

“After five days then there is a high risk of a ‘false negative’ result. That means that even if you have COVID-19, the test may come back as negative.

“Please do not self-refer for a test if you have had symptoms for five days or more.”

NHS Shetland chief executive Michael Dickson, meanwhile, encouraged folk on Twitter to think if they have a plan ready for things like food, medication and childcare if they end up having to self-isolate due to being in contact with a positive case.

First minister Nicola Sturgeon setting out the first caution steps out of lockdown during her daily press briefing on Thursday: