Addressing a virtual session of parliament on Wednesday, the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has announced changes to the self-isolation rules which must be followed from midnight tonight.

The change is that anyone who tests positive after midnight on Wednesday will have to self isolate for ten days – with an option to end this after seven days as long as there is no fever and two negative lateral flow tests are recorded – one no earlier than Day 6 after the positive test and the other at least 24 hours afterwards.

Close contacts who are under 18 years and four months or who are older than that and fully vaccinated no longer have to self isolate but must test daily for seven days. Anyone older than 18 years and four months and not fully vaccinated must self isolate for ten days and then take a PCR test.

If anyone takes a lateral flow test which is positive then there is no longer any requirement to take a PCR test to confirm it. But the positive result must be reported to Test & Protect online so that they can begin contact tracing. This will allow the government to maximise testing capacity.

The First Minister also confirmed that a new figure – to differentiate those who are in hospital because of Covid from those in hospital with Covid – but who were initially admitted for different reasons will be published on Friday. The number of people in hospital with Covid has increased from 679 to 1,223 in the last week.

Ms Sturgeon said that over the last week the number of new cases has increased by 87%, and that by tomorrow one million cases will have been recorded in Scotland. She said that at least one in 20 people may have the virus and stemming transmission is important for the NHS which is under pressure for three reasons:

  • 1. The NHS has to deal with non-Covid backlogs built up over the last two years.
  • 2. Many NHS staff are absent and self-isolating because they or their close contacts have Covid.
  • 3. Even if omicron does not mean an increased rate of hospitalisation, the “sheer volume of cases” means more people going to hospital.

Explaining that the number of daily cases, which today is 16,103, means that the virus is more widespread than ever before and that this has implications for the NHS, the economy and critical services. The reason for this is the number of people who have to stay off work for reasons of self isolation.

The rules on large gatherings, and the requirements for table service in hospitality venues serving alcohol will remain in force until 17 January. And people are urged to limit the number of households at any indoor gathering to three.

The government will publish in the next three weeks a new strategic framework to set out how to adapt thinking on how to manage the virus in future.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said: “I welcome the changes being made to the self-isolation period – they will be a relief to public services and businesses who were feeling the impact of restrictions.

“We all agree that we must confront and challenge disinformation online – it undermines public health messaging – but that isn’t helped by the government providing unclear information.

“There is clearly a difference between being in hospital or in intensive care with covid and being in hospital or intensive care because of covid – especially if there is an outbreak in a hospital.

“That information is important to maintain public confidence in the decisions being taken and why – so the delay in this data being released, after weeks of requests for it, is disappointing.

“Changes to the rules around testing and self-isolation are also welcome, though urgent clarity is needed.

“Key workers are still reporting waiting days for results despite a pre-existing pledge to prioritise frontline workers.

“So we need urgent clarification on what these proposed changes will mean for those NHS, social care and frontline workers who need access to that testing to relieve pressure on vital frontline public services.”