Sturgeon: No ‘meaningful’ changes to lockdown as Scotland unveils new strategy

4 May 2020, 14:19

By Ewan Somerville

The Scottish Government has set out full details of its plan for mass testing and tracing of coronavirus infections to ease the country out of lockdown.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the ‘test, trace, isolate’ (TTI) exit strategy will ramp up capacity for testing and contact tracing and offer support to those who need to self-isolate.

However, she said the plan cannot be enacted until Scotland can carry out 15,500 tests a day - two per cent of the population - nearly double the current level of 8,350.

A new paper published by the Scottish Government on Monday says 2,000 contact tracers will need to be recruited alongside strict social distancing, face covering and hygiene measures.

A soldier assists at a Covid-19 testing centre at Glasgow Airport
A soldier assists at a Covid-19 testing centre at Glasgow Airport. Picture: PA

Scotland's plan: the key points:

- The Scottish Government believes it will need capacity to test 2% of the population before it can introduce Test, Trace, Isolate (TTI) which would be 15,500 tests per day. They are at 8,350.

- Positive cases will be expected to self-isolate for seven days immediately. Close contacts of positive cases will be asked to self-isolate for 14 days.

- 2,000 contact tracers will need to be recruited to carry out TTI effectively alongside social distancing/face covering measures.

- Developing digital infrastructure and voluntary NHS app to help with contact tracing - this is different to UK Government's bluetooth app.

READ MORE: Draft plans leaked for UK offices as they leave lockdown

Anyone who tests positive will be required to self-isolate immediately for seven days, while those who have been within two metres of them for 15 minutes or more will face 14 days quarantine.

The framework for the “next phase” of the pandemic, which MSPs hope to have rolled out “by the end of May 2020”, will also see a Scotland-only voluntary NHS app developed for contact tracing.

Ms Sturgeon said that moving forwards "depends on suppressing the virus to as low a level as possible", warning "no quick fixes" exist.

Urging the public to "stick with" the current lockdown, she said that becoming complacent could "extinguish the light at the end of the tunnel".

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She has previously cautioned that lifting the lockdown will not be a “flick of the switch” moment and that a “new normal” of social distancing will last into 2021.

The new paper also vows a support system for those in self-isolation modelled on the current “shielding” approach for over-70s, warning that “people may face self-isolation not just once, but on repeat occasions”.

Ms Sturgeon added: "It is important to stress that 'test, trace, isolate' will be most effective when levels of infection are low - lower than now - and stay low, and that its success relies on all of us knowing and agreeing what to do if we have symptoms, and being prepared to self-isolate when advised to do so."

It comes as Boris Johnson reviews the UK-wide lockdown this week. The Prime Minister is expected to answer growing calls for an exit strategy on Sunday by outlining the Government’s plan to ease the curbs.

Draft official plans leaked to several news outlets for businesses to reopen include staggered shift times, less sharing of equipment and hot-desks, closing canteens and keeping lifts half-empty, and maximising working from home.

The NHS is also developing a UK-wide bluetooth app to support contact tracing post-lockdown, but it will require millions to download it to work.