PEOPLE exposed to Covid-19 could be provided with isolation accommodation by the Government to reduce the risk of them spreading the virus to other members of their household.

The Chinese-style quarantine measure was touted as the Scottish Government unveiled its plans for a Test, Trace and Isolate (TTI) strategy expected to be in place by the end of May, pending a significant increase in the country’s testing capacity.

TTI is seen as a key plank in helping to ease existing lockdown restrictions, although First Minister Nicola Sturgeon stressed that it would only work if people also continued to adhere to social distancing measures designed to suppress the infection.

“A successful TTI approach depends on us first suppressing the virus to as low a level as possible,” said Ms Sturgeon, adding that she will give an update today on the estimated prevalence of Covid-19 in the community.

“If infection rates are too high, or they go higher in future, the number of people with symptoms who will need tested will overwhelm the system.

“TTI will be a key part of our approach, but it will not on its own keep infection rates down. It’s not a quick fix or a magic solution.

“It will have to be combined with physical distancing and rigorous hygiene.”

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The TTI approach will require labs in Scotland to be able to process 15,500 coronavirus tests a day in order to be effective, said the First Minister.

Current capacity between the NHS and private sector is 8,350, with a predicted expansion to 12,000 by mid-May.

Under TTI, anyone in the community with potential coronavirus symptoms would be eligible for testing.

If they tested positive, they would be required to self-isolate, with all their recent known contacts traced and told to self-isolate as a precaution for 14 days.

The Scottish Government briefing paper states: “For some people, this may mean that they need to be provided with somewhere to isolate away from the rest of their household.

“Others will need practical support with food and medicine, whilst ensuring their physical and mental health needs are met.

“Work is underway to develop plans for providing the support that is needed to enable people to isolate effectively.”

In China, quarantine facilities were constructed in sports halls and exhibition centres to enable people who tested positive to be temporarily isolated away from the general population.

It meant infected individuals who deteriorated had medical assistance on standby and avoided passing the virus on to the people they lived with.

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) credited this policy with substantial reductions in the ‘R’ number - or reproduction rate - of the virus, slowing its spread.

In the UK, it has been suggested that hotels could be requisitioned or empty Nightingale hospitals, such as the NHS Louisa Jordan, used as Covid quarantine sites.

It is unlikely to be mandatory, as it was in China, but is seen as important in cases where an individual would struggle to isolate from others effectively in their own home.

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There were also warnings that under TTI some people could be asked to self-isolate “multiple times” if they are identified as having come into contact with a known case more than once.

This may include possible transmission of the virus between strangers.

For example, bus passengers could be alerted to potential exposure if they are identified as having travelled on the same vehicle at the same time as someone who later tested positive.

A contact-tracing app which uses Bluetooth mobile phone technology is currently being piloted for this purpose on the Isle of Wight by the UK Government.

The Scottish Government’s TTI report said: “This app uses Bluetooth technology to identify close contacts among other app users, and may be particularly useful for identifying people who have been in close physical proximity but who are unknown, such as a stranger on public transport...we are seeking to ensure greater involvement for the Scottish Government in its development.”

UK Health secretary Matt Hancock confirmed that healthcare workers on the Isle of Wight will begin using the mobile phone app from today, before it is extended to the rest of the island’s residents later this week.

Mr Hancock explained: “The aim of test, track and trace is to hunt down and isolate the virus, so it’s unable to reproduce.

“I’m grateful to the huge enthusiasm shown by islanders who know that by participating in this pilot they’re at the forefront of helping get Britain back on her feet.

“The island has a single NHS Trust, one local authority with the responsibilities for public health, a relatively low number of COVID cases.

"And because it’s an island we can run this trial in proper scientifically controlled conditions, comparing the effect with what’s going on on the mainland, before we roll it out to the rest of the country.”

Separately, the Digital Health and Care Institute are also developing an online tool for the NHS in Scotland which will enable people to input the details of recent contacts using their smartphone or computer.

This data will be sent directly and securely to NHS contact tracing teams.

The report stressed that these app technologies should not be seen “as a substitute” for traditional manual contact tracing, which is routinely deployed by public health teams in response to hospital outbreaks or food poisoning clusters.

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An extra 2000 dedicated Covid contact tracers will be added to NHS public health teams to track down and alert individuals potentially exposed to the virus.

Ms Sturgeon said this additional workforce would be created through a combination of redeploying existing staff and bringing on new recruits.

The First Minister reiterated that any change to the current lockdown measures was “very unlikely” this week despite the number of Covid patients in intensive care dipping to 99.

However, she did not rule out relaxing some of the measures prior to the next review date of May 28 “if the evidence said it was safe to do so”.

Ms Sturgeon also stressed that the TTI strategy would only succeed if people complied with instructions to self-isolate.

“A test, trace and isolate approach will only work if you the public are willing to do what we ask of you,” she said.

This would mean that anyone asked to self-isolate due to potential infection should not take part in outdoor exercise or shopping trips and should separate themselves “as far as possible” from other household members.

In South Korea, one of the world’s most extensive TTI regimes has been seen as crucial to suppressing the virus, although questions have also been raised about invasion of privacy.

Emergency text messages from public health authorities notify South Koreans whenever someone in their local area tests positive, with details of the unnamed individual’s movements prior to diagnosis.

In some cases this has even included timings of visits to so-called ‘love motels’, popular with people cheating on their spouses.