Anyone in Scotland with coronavirus symptoms will now be tested and have their contacts traced if positive as part of the Scottish Government’s Test and Protect strategy.
Nicola Sturgeon announced that the Scottish Government’s approach to implementing its test, trace, isolate and support strategy will be in place from Thursday.
Speaking at the daily Covid-19 briefing, she said Scotland now has a testing capacity of more than 15,000 and will have 2,000 contact tracers by the end of the month – though she said she expects only about 700 will be needed.
She said: “This is a system that will operate at a scale not seen before in Scotland.
“We have, of course, had testing and contact tracing before, but we are substantially increasing the scale.
“Over the first couple of weeks it will need to bed down but introducing it at the same time as we take the first very cautious steps out of lockdown gives us the opportunity to address any operational issues ahead of a potentially more substantial easing of restrictions at the next review date in three weeks.”
Public health software already used to trace the contacts of those with other infectious diseases has also been scaled up, Ms Sturgeon said.
Ms Sturgeon urged those with symptoms of coronavirus not to delay seeking a test.
If a person tests positive, they will be asked to provide names of people they have been in contact with face-to-face, in their household, or less than two metres for 15 minutes or more.
Those contacted will not be told the name of the person who tested positive in order to protect their privacy.
They will be asked to self-isolate and to immediately head home if they are at work. Employers should not ask them to go into work but may ask them to work from home.
The Scottish Government will publish guidance for employers “making clear they should support any member of staff who is asked to self-isolate through Test and Protect”.
Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish Government has been in touch with the UK Government to “ensure that employment rights and entitlement to benefits, including statutory sick pay, take account of the fact that people might be off work or unable to attend appointments through no fault of their own”.
Being asked to isolate in this way is “something that over the months ahead could happen to any of us on more than one occasion”, Ms Sturgeon said.
“Your privacy will be respected at all times during this process,” she added, saying the information of tested persons will not be accessible by the Scottish Government and will be handled within the NHS.
In response to a question about the risk of unsolicited phone calls from fraudsters posing as contact tracers, Ms Sturgeon said: “We are taking steps at every stage here to protect people’s privacy and to make sure there is security.
“We will make sure that we give more details about exactly what those steps are, both in terms of the people giving the information about contact tracers and the people who are being contacted by a contact tracer, in terms of the steps that will be taken to ensure verification of identity.”
The First Minister also gave the latest Covid-19 figures for Scotland.
A total of 2,291 patients have died after testing positive for coronavirus, up by 18 from 2,273 on Monday.
The First Minister said 15,185 people have tested positive for the virus in Scotland, up by 29 from 15,156 the day before.
There are 1,200 people in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19, a decrease of 69, and 36 people were in intensive care, a fall of four.