Contact tracing is a process for identifying people at risk of coronavirus (COVID-19) infection because they‘ve been physically close enough to a person who has tested positive. These people will be given advice to help reduce the risk of spreading the virus.
Contact tracing isn't new – it’s been used for many years worldwide for a range of infectious diseases.
Test and Protect
Test and Protect is a public health measure designed to interrupt the spread of coronavirus in the community by:
- identifying people who have the virus
- tracing those who have been in close contact with an infected person for a long enough period of time to be at risk of infection
- supporting these close contacts to self-isolate, so that if they have the virus they are less likely to transmit it to others
It will help to gradually change the restrictions so we can avoid a return to lockdown.
More about Test and Protect from the Scottish Government
How contact tracing works
Everyone who tests positive for coronavirus will be put in touch with a NHS contact tracer to help identify who they’ve been in close contact with.
If you have tested positive, contact tracers will:
- contact you by phone or text message – there’s no need to log in to a website
- ask you who you live with, who you have been physically close to recently and where you have been
- decide which of these people might be infected based on how long they spent with you and how physically close they were
- contact these people to tell them to isolate and book a test
If you have tested positive you and everyone in your household should follow our guidance for households with possible infection.
All close contacts must isolate for 10 days, whether their test result is positive or negative. As a close contact you cannot leave self-isolation if your test comes back negative. A test provides a point in time assessment of whether someone had the infection when the test was taken. It cannot indicate whether someone is incubating the disease, and therefore may go on to develop it after a test is taken. It’s for this reason that close contacts must complete the required 10 days of self-isolation.
If you are considered to be at risk, you will be contacted by phone or text message. You will not be told the identity of the infected person unless they have given permission for their name to be shared.
To make contact tracing as easy as possible:
- contact tracers can phone you back at a better time if you’re unable to talk
- interpreters can be arranged if you don’t speak or understand English
- the British Sign Language video relay service is available
- you might want to find a quiet place to talk and have a pen and paper handy in case you need to write anything down
If you see a call from the national number 0800 030 8012, please don’t ignore it. Pick up the phone and help stop the infection spreading.
The contact tracer service operates between 8.00am and 8.00pm, 7 days a week.
Real or a scam?
NHS Scotland contact tracers will:
- in some cases, send a text to let you know that you will be receiving a call from NHS Scotland (if mobile is available)
- call from a single, national telephone number – 0800 030 8012
- always introduce themselves, tell you why they are contacting you and address you by your name
- give you the option to call back the above number to provide reassurance that the service is legitimate
They will never ask you:
- for information other than your movements and the people you have been physically close to
- to phone a premium rate number
- to make a purchase, payment or donation
- for your medical history unrelated to coronavirus
- for your bank details
- for your social media identities or login details, or those of your contacts
- for your passwords or PIN numbers, or to set up any
- for control of your computer, smartphone or tablet, or to download anything
- to visit a website that does not belong to NHS Scotland or the Scottish Government
When and how long to self-isolate due to coronavirus
Use this guide to find out if you need to self-isolate and for how long. It also gives advice on what your household and extended household should do.
If your test results or symptoms change, you must this guide again to reassess how long you need to isolate for.
If your symptoms are severe
Phone NHS 24 (111) if your symptoms are severe at the start or worsen during isolation. Phone 999 if you have a medical emergency. Tell them you are a contact of a person confirmed as having coronavirus when phoning.
Get an isolation note to give to your employer
You can send an isolation note to your employer as proof you need to stay off work because you’ve been told you're a close contact and need to isolate.
You don’t need to get a note from a GP.
Get an isolation note
Protect Scotland app
The free NHS Scotland Protect Scotland app has been designed to help us protect each other and reduce the spread of coronavirus.
While keeping your information private and anonymous, the app will:
- alert you if you have been in close contact with another app user who tests positive for coronavirus
- help to determine contacts that you may have otherwise missed if you test positive
Find out more about the Protect Scotland app or download it through the App Store and Google Play
You can provide feedback or make a complaint about your contact tracing experience by emailing NHS National Services Scotland