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 is a well-established public health intervention. Health protection teams have a lot of experience delivering contact tracing for a range of infectious diseases.
Contact tracing is part of the national Test and Protect approach to containing the virus.
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 their local contact tracing team or the National Contact Tracing Service 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 for 14 days
If you are contacted because you’re considered to be at risk you will not be told the identity of the infected person unless they have given permission for their name to be shared.
At the start of Test and Protect, not every person with a positive test will be contacted. If you have tested positive you and everyone in your household should follow our guidance for households with possible infection.
Real or a scam?
Contact tracers will always introduce themselves, tell you why they are contacting you and address you by your name.
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
Household or extended household contacts
If you live with someone or have formed an extended household with someone who has tested positive, you and everyone in your household will be told to self-isolate for 14 days and follow our guidance for households with possible infection.
The person with symptoms should self-isolate for 7 days from the start of their symptoms.
If the person who tested positive has no symptoms, your household should self-isolate for 14 days from the date your household member was tested. The person who tested positive should self-isolate for 7 days from the date they were tested.
Contacts from outside the household
If you’re a close contact and don't live in the same house as the infected person, you will be told to isolate at home for 14 days from the last day you had contact. You will be told what day this was.
You need to do this even if you have tested negative as you could still be incubating the virus.
During isolation, you should physically distance yourself from other unexposed people in your home. You should be especially mindful of any vulnerable individuals or people who are shielding.
Others in your household do not need to isolate as long as you have no symptoms.
If you haven't developed symptoms after 14 days you can come out of isolation but should continue to follow physical distancing measures.
If you develop symptoms
If you develop symptoms while self-isolating, isolate for 7 days from the day your symptoms started and arrange to be tested. You should do this even if it takes you over the 14-day isolation period.
The rest of your household or extended household should isolate for 14 days from the day your symptoms started. Everyone in your household should follow our guidance for households with possible infection
If your test is positive, contact tracers will get in touch to identify your close contacts. You and your household should remain isolated whilst waiting for the test result.
If your test is negative, you should continue to isolate for 14 days from the last day of contact with the case, as you could still be infectious.
The rest of your household don’t need to continue isolation unless you develop new symptoms and are tested again. Your household should isolate whilst awaiting the test result.
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