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This section provides information about what coronavirus (COVID-19) is and how it affects your body. You will also find information about staying safe, as well as COVID-19 testing and vaccinations.

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What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a viral infection which can affect all parts of the body. It has a particularly strong effect on the respiratory system.

It is associated primarily with cough, fever, and respiratory difficulties, as well as “anosmia”, which is the loss or change of someone’s sense of smell or taste. COVID-19 also affects the heart, gut, and immune system, and can cause a wide range of symptoms throughout the body.

COVID-19 is spread through small droplets of saliva or mucus which are breathed out by people carrying the infection. These droplets are even more widely spread by coughs, sneezes, and heavy breathing.

Most people who develop COVID-19 symptoms recover within 2-3 weeks. However, an estimated 20% continue to present symptoms after 5 weeks, and around 10% still have symptoms after 12 weeks. This is called “Long Covid”.

Restrictions, Shielding and Self-Isolation

There are currently no restrictions in place around COVID-19 in Scotland, and the “shielding” programme which was in place earlier in the pandemic has now been withdrawn.

However, it is still advised that if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or a positive COVID-19 test in your household, you self-isolate for a minimum of 7 days or until your symptoms have passed, whichever is longer.

This means you should stay home where possible, wear a mask when going out, and avoid all unnecessary travel.

Coping with self-isolation

Self-isolation is difficult, especially if you live by yourself. It is really important to try to stay in contact with family and friends as much as possible through phone calls, emails, messaging and video calls. Stay active as much as you can in the home.

Every Mind Matters offers advice and tips to help your mental health while you are staying at home. Remember that self-isolation is temporary and will not last forever.

Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland Advice Line nurses are also there to provide confidential support, advice and information. Call them for free on 0808 801 0899, email or text NURSE to 66777.


There are three types of test to see whether you have, or have had, COVID-19. These are:

  • PCR testing. This is the most reliable test for COVID-19. It can be performed in a clinic or at home, and takes a minimum of 48 hours to produce results. It detects the genetic material of the virus, and should be used if you have COVID symptoms. This test has to be completed within 8 days of developing symptoms, as the level of the virus may drop too much to detect after this time.
  • LFD testing. These tests are easier to produce and faster to develop than PCR tests. They detect proteins associated with the virus. If you test positive on one of these tests, you should immediately self-isolate and book a PCR test.
  • Antibody testing. These tests are mostly used in Scotland for research and study, rather than diagnosis. They test for evidence of an immune response, and therefore will not show up an infection immediately, but will continue to show a positive result even after the infection ends. A positive antibody test does not mean that you are immune, but does suggest that you have had COVID-19 at some point.

You can find out more about these tests, and how to book one, at NHS Inform.


Coronavirus vaccines are now available to every Scot over the age of 5.

There are several vaccinations available, but they have similar ways of working. The coronavirus has structures called “spike proteins” which on its surface. Vaccines instruct your body to produce these spike proteins (without the virus itself), triggering an immune response to teach your immune system to recognise and attack coronavirus.

The vaccine does not contain the virus, and being vaccinated will not give you COVID-19. There is also no evidence that vaccination has the long-term damaging effects that COVID-19 itself does.

Some people do experience side effects following vaccination. These may include:

  • tenderness, swelling and/or redness at the injection site
  • headache or muscle ache
  • joint pain
  • chills
  • nausea or vomiting
  • feeling tired
  • fever (temperature above 37.8°C)

These symptoms usually pass within a few days.

Some people who have previously had severe allergic reactions may react badly to the virus. This is very uncommon (around 1 in 4,000 people) and can be avoided by discussing your allergic history with a doctor or health professional before getting the vaccination.

Being vaccinated is shown to protect you against severe COVID symptoms. Most people who have severe COVID symptoms requiring hospitalisation have not been vaccinated – so if you can get the vaccine, you absolutely should!

Information on COVID-19 vaccination is available in several languages from NHS Lothian.

This page was last updated on May 3, 2023 and is under regular review. If you feel anything is missing or incorrect, please contact to provide feedback.

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