Coronavirus (COVID-19): Contact tracing

Contact tracing is a process for identifying people who are at risk of coronavirus (COVID-19) infection because they‘ve had enough contact with a person who has tested positive. These people will be given advice to help reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

Contract 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 one part of the Scottish Government's test, trace, isolate, support (TTIS) strategy.

Test, trace, isolate, support (TTIS)

TTIS is a public health measure designed to interrupt the spread of coronavirus in the community by:

  • identifying cases
  • tracing the people who may have become infected by spending time in close contact with them
  • supporting those close contacts to self-isolate, so that if they have the disease they are less likely to transmit it to others

More about test, trace, isolate, support from the Scottish Government

Start date

Contact tracing starts in some areas of Scotland on Monday 18 May and will be gradually extended to all areas.

At the start of TTIS, 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.

How tracing works

Once contact tracing has started across the whole of Scotland, health protection teams will contact people who have tested positive by phone, e-mail or text.

They will:

  • ask questions to find out who they live with, which people they have been near recently and where they have been
  • decide which of these people are contacts based on how much time they spent with them and how physically close they were

Health protection teams will then contact these people by phone, e-mail or text to inform them and give them advice. They will not be told the identity of the infected person.

Household contacts 

If you live with someone who has tested positive, you and everyone in your household will be told to follow our guidance for households with possible infection.

Contacts from outside the household

If you have been classified as a 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.

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 isolating:

  • isolate for 7 days from the day your symptoms started even if this takes you over the 14-day isolation period
  • the rest of your 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

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.

Further information