Coronavirus (COVID-19): Contact tracing

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 those close contacts who are required to self-isolate, so that if they have the virus they are less likely to transmit it to others

Breaking the chains of transmission in the community will stop the virus spreading. This will allow us to gradually change the restrictions that help to suppress the virus.

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 Test and Protect to help identify who they’ve been in close contact with.

To help with this you will receive a link to a secure online form with your test result so you can share who you have been in close contact with or any places you have been. The link to the form is unique to you. It’ll be sent to you through text or email following a positive result.

The contract tracing form explained (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2pZUdTzd0A)

Video explaining how the Test and Protect online contact tracing form works.

 If you have tested positive, contact tracers will:

  • contact you by phone or text message
  • 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 self-isolate immediately and book a test

If you have tested positive you should follow our guidance for households with possible infection.

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.

Even if you’ve had your vaccine, you must still follow advice from contact tracers.

Close contacts

Close contacts should self-isolate and book a test as soon as possible.

If you or someone you care for is identified as a contact and advised to take a PCR test, but have been told by a medical professional that you or they are unable to do so for a medical reason, discuss this with Test and Protect when they contact you.

If you're fully vaccinated

As a close contact, you can end self-isolation if all of the following apply:

  • you're fully vaccinated this means you’ve received 2 doses of an approved vaccine and have had your second dose more than 14 days ago
  • you receive a negative PCR test result
  • you do not have, or develop, symptoms

If you’re a close contact and you’ve tested positive for coronavirus in the last 90 days, you do not have to self-isolate or book a test if you’re fully vaccinated unless you develop new symptoms.

Staying safe if you’ve ended self-isolation

Even if you’re fully vaccinated, you can still get coronavirus and pass it on to others.

If you’re a close contact who can end self-isolation, you can help protect others by following the Scottish Government’s guidance on how to stay safe and help prevent the spread.

As well as getting a PCR test, you may also consider:

If you're not fully vaccinated

If you’re a close contact under 18 years and 4 months or you cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons, you can only end self-isolation if you receive a negative PCR test result and you do not have, or develop, symptoms.

If you’re not fully vaccinated because you’re taking part in an official clinical trial, you’re exempt from self-isolation as a close contact if you receive a negative PCR test and do not have, or develop, symptoms.

If you are over 18 years and 4 months old and are not fully vaccinated, you must complete 10 days of self-isolation from your last date of contact with a positive case, even if you do not have symptoms and you receive a negative test result. The reason we say 18 years and 4 months is to allow time for individuals to become fully vaccinated.

Children under 5 years old who are close contacts do not need to self-isolate and are encouraged to book a test. If they develop symptoms, they should self-isolate and book a test.

If you’re a close contact and you’ve tested positive for coronavirus in the last 90 days but you’re not fully vaccinated and aged over 18 years and 4 months, you should self-isolate for 10 days. You do not have to book a test unless you develop new symptoms.

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.

Self-help guide

Return to Symptoms




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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 if 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 if you need to self-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

Feedback

You can provide feedback or make a complaint about your contact tracing experience by emailing the national contact tracing centre. The feedback team are available Monday to Friday, 8am to 5pm.

Further information