Essential staff can be exempt from isolation in ‘very limited’ situations – Nicola Sturgeon

Key workers in critical roles in Scotland will be able to avoid self-isolation after close contact with coronavirus if they are fully vaccinated and are tested daily, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced.

Isolation will not be required for close contacts of infected people if their work is deemed to be essential and staff shortages could impact upon sectors such as health and social care, transport and food supplies.

Affected industries will have to apply to the Scottish Government for staff to be exempt from the mandatory quarantine rules and health and social care staff are not included in the change.

If the government deems a critical role can be exempt, the worker will still have to prove they have had two doses of coronavirus vaccine at least two weeks prior to any close contact, have a negative PCR test and agree to carry out lateral flow tests for 10 days after the contact.

The Scottish Government announcement states that exemptions will be made on a temporary basis and last only for as long as there is an immediate risk to business or service continuity.

Ms Sturgeon said: “It is essential that lifeline services and critical national infrastructure are maintained and we are implementing these changes now – ahead of possible changes to self-isolation rules for close contacts that may apply more generally in future – to ensure staff shortages do not put key services at risk.

“We have seen significant staff shortages in a small number of organisations in recent days and we have worked with them to protect services.

“Applications for exemptions are being considered from today and we will consider applications as they come in.

“Clinical evidence tells us we can safely and effectively release some critical staff from self-isolation, with appropriate safeguards.

“However, this is a very limited change at this stage, to be applied on a case-by-case basis and only where absolutely necessary.

“We will not allow key services to be threatened by staff shortages, but equally we must continue to protect public health.”

Applications for isolation exemption can be made via the Scottish Government website and will be required to demonstrate the organisation is part of the country’s critical infrastructure, what steps have been taken to address pressure on the sector, and the impact of no action.

They will also have to set out the intended scope of exemption, such as the location and number of staff affected.

The Government says any exemption process for health, social care and local services will be different and announced at an as-yet-unconfirmed date.

Covid-19 cases in Scotland spiked early in the summer before beginning to fall in recent weeks.

The latest statistics show six coronavirus deaths and 1,505 new cases were recorded in the past 24 hours.

A total of 502 people were in hospital on Thursday with recently confirmed Covid-19, up 14 on the previous day, with 57 patients in intensive care, down one.

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