A leading trade union has hit out at the Scottish Government's plan to allow some critical workers to avoid self-isolation - stating that it could lead to a new spike in the pandemic.

Unite Scotland, who presents members in the health and social care sector, say they have raised "serious concerns" directly with the Scottish Government today (Friday) over its approach to Level Zero restrictions. 

The Scottish Government has removed the blanket requirement for close contacts to self-isolate. 

It will now be possible to apply to exempt those who work in critical roles where staff shortages are in danger of putting essential services, such as health and social care, transport and the provision of food supplies at risk.

Staff must be double-vaccinated and in receipt of their second dose and will also require to have a negative PCR test.

READ MORE: Some critical workers to be exempted from self-isolation rules in Scotland

Nicola Sturgeon said it is "essential that lifeline services and critical national infrastructure are maintained" but stressed the new measures are "very limited". 

However, James O’Connell, Unite industrial officer, stressed that "vaccination is not immunisation" while criticising the move. 

He said: “There has been a growing number of cases of the delta variant in Scotland and we can’t allow this to spiral out of control.

"While we understand there is a need and desire to return to normality, we have got to remember that vaccination is not immunisation.

"Unite’s members particularly in those vulnerable sectors such as health and social care are extremely worried that we could see a new spike in hospital admissions, and it is the staff on the frontline having to deal with this."  

The First Minister made the announcement on Friday amid concerns over supermarket shortages and supply issues, with shoppers urged not to panic buy.

The latest government figures show, 1,825 new cases of Covid-19 were recorded in the past 24 hours and twenty-two new deaths have been reported of someone who tested positive for the virus over the past 28 days. 

In the week ending July 20, on average 2,109 NHS staff, or around 1.2% of the NHS workforce, reported absent each day for a range of reasons related to COVID-19.

Mr O’Connell added: “If you're identified as a close contact it potentially takes 48 hours minimum for the virus to be detected through a test so there is a potential for staff to be asymptomatic without knowing they are positive for a period of time.

"Using the hierarchy of control risk should be removed or at least minimised as much as it can be, therefore, in order to remove or minimise the risk of spread you should isolate not gamble using health and social care staff as the test.

"They look after the most vulnerable people in our society, is it worth it?  

"The Government is putting a lot of emphasis on double vaccination which does not stop contraction of the virus, however, why are they not looking at reducing the time between vaccine?”

Speaking on Friday, 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.”