Testing of patients in Scotland with flu-like symptoms is to begin as part of measures to combat Covid-19.
A surveillance network of 41 GP practices will submit samples, even if patients have not travelled to an area affected by the new coronavirus.
The plan makes use of an existing system recording the spread of flu and is described as a “precautionary step”.
Testing is also to be introduced for patients admitted to critical care units with pneumonia.
Chief Medical Officer Dr Catherine Calderwood said: “Scotland is well-prepared for a significant outbreak of coronavirus but there is currently no treatment or vaccine. Early detection measures will be vital in helping to prevent the spread of the virus in the event of an outbreak.
“Hospitals and GP surgeries will now conduct tests on some patients with coughs, fevers or shortness of breath – regardless of whether they have travelled to a place where the virus is known to be spreading.”
She added: “Not everyone with flu will be tested, but this is a sensible step to take as a precautionary measure to give us an early warning of community transmission.”
What do I need to know about the coronavirus?
- WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS? A simple guide
- WAYS TO PREVENT CATCHING IT: How to wash your hands
- WHERE ARE WE WITH A VACCINE? Progress so far
- A VISUAL GUIDE TO THE OUTBREAK: Virus maps and charts
- WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR MY HOLIDAY? Your rights as a traveller
As of Saturday, 630 tests had been carried out in Scotland on people who might have been exposed to the disease.
All tests so far have been negative.
There have been 23 patients found to be suffering from Covid-19 in the UK as a whole.