Changes are being made to self-isolation rules in Scotland to allow close contacts of COVID cases to return to critical roles, including in health and social care.
The Scottish government said it will be possible to apply to exempt those who work in critical roles where staff shortages “are in danger of putting essential services at risk”.
Exceptions will only be made if staff are fully vaccinated, have a negative PCR test and negative daily lateral flow tests. Staff members must also voluntary agree not to self-isolate.
The news follows the announcement from the UK government that some fully vaccinated frontline NHS and social care staff in England, who have been told to self-isolate, will be permitted to attend work.
While some sectors will be able to apply via the Scottish Government website, there is a separate approval process for health and social care. Details can be found here.
First Minister Nicola 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.”