Preparations for a coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in Scotland have been accelerated, as the virus continues to spread beyond China.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon chaired a Scottish Government Resilience meeting (SGoRR) to discuss preparedness in Scotland, following outbreaks in northern Italy and other parts of the world.
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman who also attended the meeting said:
“Though the risk to individuals remain low, and all test results have come back negative so far, the Chief Medical Officer has advised that it is highly likely that we will see a positive case in Scotland as coronavirus continues to spread.
“We are expecting an outbreak and are working hard to ensure we have plans in place to contain it as best we can. The NHS and Health Protection Scotland have an established plan to respond to anyone who becomes unwell.
“Scotland is well-prepared for a significant outbreak of coronavirus but there is currently no treatment or vaccine. Therefore, preventing the spread of any outbreak will be vital, and the Scottish Government is working closely with NHS Scotland and Health Protection Scotland to ensure this.
“We have a proven track record of dealing with challenging health issues and have public health and infectious disease experts working intensively on these issues.
“The public also has a vital role to play in helping us contain any outbreak by following the latest health and travel advice, and following basic hygiene precautions, such as washing hands and covering their nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.”
Preparations in Scotland to date include:
- the establishment of two testing laboratories in Glasgow and Edinburgh to speed up identification of confirmed cases
- Supplying GP surgeries with face masks and ensuring hospitals are fully stocked with personal protective equipment
- Updating of public health legislation to make coronavirus a notifiable disease
The latest numbers of test results are published at 2pm each day on the Scottish Government website.
Updates on public health advice for coronavirus can be found on the NHS Inform website, and a free helpline has also been set up for those who do not have symptoms but are looking for general health advice: 0800 028 2816.
For the general public who are planning to travel abroad, guidance can be found on fitfortravel. Where a COVID-19 risk is identified then country pages will be updated.
Anyone who has arrived in the UK from the areas listed below since 19 February is advised to stay indoors and avoid contact with other people, even if they do not have symptoms. Those who have returned from these areas and display or develop symptoms should phone their GP or NHS24 on 111 out of hours.
- specific lockdown areas in Northern Italy as designated by the Government of Italy
- special care zones in South Korea as designated by the Government of the Republic of Korea
- the Hubei province in China
For South Korea, anyone who visited the two cities at the centre of the outbreak, Daegu and Cheongdo, is advised to self-isolate for 14 days, even if they do not have symptoms.
For Iran, all returning travellers are requested to self-isolate, even if they do not have symptoms.
For northern Italy, all travellers returning from specific lockdown areas identified by the Italian Government are advised to self-isolate, even if they do not have symptoms.
Any other travellers returning from parts of Italy north of Pisa, Florence and Rimini in the past week are asked to monitor their health, and self-isolate if they develop symptoms.
Anyone who has travelled to the UK from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam is also now advised to monitor their health, and self-isolate if they develop symptoms.
Public health advice to reduce the risk of acquiring and spreading respiratory infections by practising good respiratory hygiene, includes:
- avoiding direct hand contact with your eyes, nose and mouth
- maintaining good hand hygiene – washing hands with soap and water or alcohol hand sanitiser, after coughing or sneezing, after going to the toilet, and prior to eating and drinking
- wherever possible avoid direct contact with people that have a respiratory illness and avoid using their personal items such as their mobile phone
- when coughing or sneezing cover your nose and mouth with disposable tissues and dispose of them in the nearest waste bin after use