People moving from hospitals to care homes will no longer need to self-isolate for 14 days, providing they have no symptoms and produce a negative PCR test result in the 48 hours before the move.
They must also not have come into contact with any Covid positive cases in the previous 14 days.
Care home residents who visit hospital overnight will not need to take a PCR test, so long as there is no suspicion they may have Covid.
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The isolation period for residents who test positive for the virus, or who are contacts of positive cases, has been cut from 14 to ten days.
For the general public the period is seven days for those who have Covid, providing they test negative on days six and seven. There is no self-isolation requirement for fully vaccinated members of the public who are contacts of positive cases – they are instead asked to take a daily test for seven days.
The Care Home Relatives Scotland campaign group has welcomed the changes, but called for more easing as restrictions in care homes remain tougher than elsewhere.
Homes which experience a Covid outbreak are still subject to 14-day lockdowns, they said, leading to fears of these continuing for long periods in larger facilities where more residents are likely to contract the virus.
During these lockdowns residents – including those who are Covid positive – are still entitled to named visitors.
“We've got to try and relax the defensiveness and concentrate on the way that we can allow contact with loved ones, because the isolation thing is getting beyond a joke,” said Sheila Hall, whose mother lives in a care home.
“If there is an outbreak in my mum’s home, say, but she didn't have it and wasn't a contact, could she not do a lateral flow test and be able to go out like the rest of the community do?
“I think we've got to try and introduce a more person-centred way of dealing with it rather than just a blanket lockdown because there’s an outbreak… that’s our concern at the moment.”
Announcing the easing of isolation requirements, social care minister Kevin Stewart said: “We know isolating for longer time periods can be distressing and harmful for care home residents and for their loved ones.
"Reducing the length of time care home residents have to isolate if they catch Covid, or are identified as close contacts, reflects the ongoing risks facing people who live communally, in a homely environment with other care home residents, many of whom have long-term conditions.”
Mr Stewart added that it is “crucial" for care homes to continue to allow indoor visiting.
The Scottish Government recommends that there should be no set limits to the number of households visiting each resident, he said, with care homes determining numbers taking into account the size of the visiting area and other factors.
“As before there should be no restrictions placed on frequency and duration of visiting, which will guided by care home arrangements and circumstances,” he said.