Happy new year!
Firstly, we hope you all managed to avoid Covid and get a bit of rest over the festive period. Here’s hoping the year ahead sees all our members getting the reward and recognition they deserve.
First Minister’s Covid update
We learned a number of things from the First Minister’s Covid update on Wednesday including:
- 1 in 20 of us now have the virus
- The number of people in hospital with COVID increased from 679 to 1,223 in the last week. That’s a rise of 80% and is putting significant additional pressure on the NHS.
- No new protective measures were announced but there were a number of changes the requirements relating to self-isolation and testing (detailed below).
- For those who have symptoms of COVID, the advice remains to book a PCR test, even if you have a positive lateral flow test.
- The advice for everyone remains to test regularly with lateral flow devices, especially before meeting up with others.
- Existing restrictions on large gatherings, the requirement for distancing between groups of people in public indoor places and for table service in hospitality venues serving alcohol on the premises will remain in force for now and, anticipated, until 17th January.
- While it is not a legal requirement, the general public are strongly advised to limit contact with people in other households as far as possible, and to limit the number of households in any indoor gathering that does take place to a maximum of three.
Further information can be found here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-update-first-ministers-statement-5-january-2022
Self Isolation and Testing Changes
- The first change to self isolation applies to those who test positive for COVID. While the initial advice when someone tests positive will still be to self-isolate for 10 days, there will now be an option to end isolation after seven days as long as you, firstly, have no fever and, secondly, you record two negative lateral flow tests, one no earlier than day six after testing positive and another at least 24 hours after that.
- The second change applies to close contacts of positive cases – and this includes household contacts – who are either under the age of 18 years, four months, or who are older than that and fully vaccinated. [Fully vaccinated = those who have had first, second and booster/third doses]. For close contacts in these categories the requirement to self-isolate will end and be replaced by a requirement to take a lateral flow test every day for seven days. Obviously, if one of these tests is positive, self-isolation will then be required. Anyone identified as a close contact who is over 18 years and four months and not fully vaccinated will still be asked to self-isolate for 10 days and to take a PCR test.
- From today, if your lateral flow test is positive, and you do not have symptoms, you will no longer be required to take a PCR test to confirm the result.
- Instead, you must immediately isolate and also report your result online so that Test & Protect can commence the contact tracing process and give you advice as quickly as possible. You will also receive an online form that you must fill in, as would happen with a PCR positive in to ensure your contacts are notified.
Updated Schools Guidance
The school’s guidance has been updated and can be found here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-on-reducing-the-risks-in-schools/pages/overview/
The key changes are:
- Updates to the self-isolation sections, to reflect the updated policy that will apply across wider society from today. There is also a Q&A attached which has been prepared by Test and Protect to answer any questions that may understandably arise given the changes being introduced. Please note that these changes mean the critical workers exemption policy that was recently introduced no longer applies; and
- Updates to the vaccination section, to reflect the latest JCVI advice.
- There is also a minor update to the section on outbreak management, to reflect the ongoing practice by local HPTs of prioritising engagement with higher risk settings where cases are very high (this can in practice sometimes mean, for example, that IMTs are not held for every school outbreak, with alternative handling arrangements agreed between HPTs, LAs and schools).
Note that all secondary school children are being asked to take a lateral flow test on the night before or morning of their first day back, and thereafter to test twice a week and also in advance of mixing socially with people from other households. And the staff in all educational and early years settings should take a lateral flow test just before starting back at work, and in line with broader advice after that.
Further information on the changes and links to where you can get LFT tests can be found here: https://www.gov.scot/news/self-isolation-and-testing-changes/
Specific Guidance for Social Care Staff
See the updated Policy Framework to the self-isolation guidance for Health and Social Care Staff which apply from today.
We have been advised that the revised policy document sets out the conditions which will enable Health and Social Care staff who are COVID-19 index cases (confirmed as positive cases), or contacts of a positive COVID-19 case to exit isolation early in line with updated guidance for the general population. As their roles provide care and support to individuals who are often more vulnerable and at higher risk of COVID-19 infection, there will continue to be additional safeguards in place for health and social care workers including testing regimes, Infection Prevention and Control and personal protective equipment.
An additional information document for frequently asked questions for health and social care staff will be published next week and updating relevant web pages will ensure information is up to date in response to the Omicron variant.
Funding allocation for local authorities
Details have now been published of how the Scottish Government funding for 2022/23 will be distributed to local authorities – you can see your local authority’s allocation here: https://www.gov.scot/news/funding-of-gbp-12-5-billion-for-local-councils
Temporary change to fit note UK requirements
The Statutory Sick Pay (Medical Evidence) Regulations 2021 (https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2021/1453/made) came into force on 17 December 2021 and modified the existing regulations. The UK Government guidance about this change explains that “these changes are to give GP’s more time to work on the Coronavirus (Covid-19) booster programme”.
As a result of this modification, employees are not required to provide a fit note for the first 28 days of any spell of incapacity for work. This means self-certification for illness-related time off work (sick leave) has been extended from 7 days to 28 days.
As UK law takes precedence over a requirement in a collective agreement, employment contract or employer policy the effect of this is that the relevant provisions in our national agreements cannot be applied for the duration these regulations remain in force.
• In the SJC agreement the relevant paragraph is: 10.1.2 (iii).
• The Chief Officials agreement simply states that statutory notification requirements must be met and so does not contradict the new regulations.
Where terms and conditions, contracts, or policies state that a fit note is required after 7 days of absence the temporary requirement is now after 28 days.
The regulations are due to expire on 26 January 2022. The SJC will continue to monitor this and update national agreements as required.
More information can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-fit-note-a-guide-for-patients-and-employees
Where’s the righteous anger?
In case you missed it over the holidays you might be interested in this article by Brian Wilson on the state of local government funding: