Guide To Contact Tracing

We spoke to contact tracers to help put together handy guide will answer your questions about contact tracing.

What is contact tracing? 

Scottish Government are running a contact tracing system in Scotland as part of the Test & Protect which aims to limit the spread of COVID-19. Contact tracing is a common system to track down people who have been exposed to a virus or anything else infectious.  

The aim of contact tracing is to make people aware that they may have been exposed and get them to isolate themselves to avoid passing on the virus to other people. 

In Scotland, if someone tests positive for COVID-19, the contact tracing team will call them and find out who they had contact with while they were in the days prior to their symptoms developing (when COVID-19 is infectious). The contact tracing team will then try and get in touch with anyone who has been named in this call. 

What happens if someone you know tests positive for COVID-19 ?

If someone you know has tested positive, you should receive a call from a contact tracer to let you know. They will give you advice over the phone about what to do next. They may or may not tell you who it is that you know who has COVID-19, as this will be up to the person who tested positive. 

If you have heard of someone at school, college or university who has COVID-19, you do not generally need to isolate if you don’t live with them unless you are identified as a close contact by a contact tracer and are then asked to isolate.

However, you should keep a close eye on how you feel and immediately isolate if you develop symptoms.  

If you get a call from a contact tracer at a bad time, you can arrange for a better time to call them back. If you miss call from contact tracers, you can phone them back and be connected to someone to speak to. 

Look out for the number 0800 030 8012 – this is contact tracing number so please answer the phone if you see a call from this number. 

If you are under 16, the contact tracing team should get in touch with your parent or guardian first of all, and then a follow up call will be arranged with you personally. 

What to do if you test positive for COVID-19?

If you have tested positive, your contact information will be automatically entered onto the contact tracing database that Scottish Government have. The contact tracers will give you a call as soon as possible and will talk you through what to do. 

They will ask you to think about who you have been in close contact with for the 48 hours before you developed symptoms. They will help you to understand what they mean by close contact, and help you to think about who may be at risk 

The contact tracer will ask if you would like them to share your name with anyone they contact from your list. It is up to you whether you want to share this information and you can be anonymous if you prefer. 

What do I need to do if I’m contacted by a contact tracer? 

If have been identified as someone who has been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, you will be contacted by phone or text message.  

You will not be told the identity of the infected person unless they have given permission for their name to be shared. 

To make contact tracing as easy as possible: 

  • contact tracers can phone you back at a better time if you’re unable to talk 
  • interpreters can be arranged if you don’t speak or understand English 
  • the British Sign Language video relay service is available 
  • you might want to find a quiet place to talk and have a pen and paper handy in case you need to write anything down 

If you see a call from the national number 0800 030 8012, please don’t ignore it. Pick up the phone and help stop the infection spreading. 

Contact tracers will let you know how long you need to self-isolate for and what you should do next will give you advice on what you need to do next

NHS Inform has a useful article with a guide that will work out if you need to book a test or self-isolate as well as a handy video explaining the whole process. 

What contact tracing information is collected at venues?

When you visit somewhere like a café or pub, you should be asked to give the venue your first and last name and phone number. If you visit with other members of your household (people you live with), only one of you needs to give this information out. It is a legal requirement for venues to collect this information so you must do as they ask. 

It is only a legal requirement to give your first and last name and phone number however, so you shouldn’t be asked to provide an email address, post code, or any other information. The contact tracing team only use phone numbers to get in touch with people as email is much less effective. 

Venues are collecting this information from you to help contact tracers do their job. If someone who has COVID-19 visited a café during the time they were infections, the venue will pass the contact tracing team the details of anyone who was in the café at the same time as that person.  

Where does the Protect Scotland app fit in?

The Protect Scotland app is free to download onto your phone for everyone 16 and over. It needs your location and Bluetooth to be turned on to work. It is set up very securely so no-one sees the data (including GoogleApple and NHS Scotland). The app works by connecting with another phone that is within 2 metres of you. Every minute your app will ping out a ‘handshake’ notification using your Bluetooth to check the other phone is still there. If there are 15 consecutive handshakes then you are considered to have been ‘in contact’ with the other person. 

The app doesn’t collect or share your name or any other personal information. What it will do is help contact tracers identify if you have been ‘in contact’ with someone who has tested positive. It is especially useful as it will pick up unknown close contacts, for example someone you don’t know but have sat near in a café.  

If someone who uses the app tests positive for coronavirus, a contact tracer will speak to them and send them a code to enter in the app.

The app will then look to share the anonymous IDs it has been gathering from close contacts over the past 14 days. These IDs are stored on a secure NHS Scotland server so that other users’ apps can check-in to see if they match up with a positive case.

If there is a match, the app will decide which users meet the criteria to trigger a close contact alert:

  • Was the contact 2 metres or closer for a period of 15 minutes or more?
  • Was the contact during the infectious period of the person that tested positive? (defined as 2 days before the onset of their symptoms; or for those tested positive with no symptoms (asymptomatic), the 2 days before their test date)

If you meet the criteria, the app will send you the alert and let you know what you need to do next in terms of self-isolating and booking a test. It'll also let you know what support is available to you to help you self-isolate.

The app can also help contact tracers identify if lots of people who tested positive have been in the same venue. If they have, this could be an outbreak cluster and the tracers will be able to get in touch with that venue and ask for their contact tracing list to call. 

Find out more about how the Protect Scotland app works on the site where you can also download it.

More information from Young Scot on Coronavirus (COVID-19)