Blood Safety

Since the UK moved into the “delay” phase, the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service (SNBTS)  has updated its precautions. There are no longer any travel restrictions for donors in relation to COVID-19 as these have been replaced by the following policies.

Currently, you must not donate if you fall into one of the following categories:

  • You have COVID-19
  • You are in self-isolation with symptoms of possible COVID-19
  • You are well but are in self-isolation because other household members have symptoms of possible COVID-19
  • If you have shown symptoms of COVID-19, you must not donate until at least 14 days after final symptoms ceased.

If you were self-isolating because other household members were sick, but you remained symptom-free yourself, you must not donate until 14 days after your first day of self-isolation.

SNBTS has also provided the Scottish Government with a more detailed statement. They have said,

There is no current evidence that indicates that SARS-CoV-2 virus is transfusion transmissible and importantly no similar respiratory virus, including SARS-CoV-1, MERS-CoV, and influenza viruses have ever been confirmed as transfusion-transmissible by blood products.

The risk to blood safety would be associated with infectious viraemic but asymptomatic donors, whilst viraemia has only been detected in symptomatic patients with SARS-CoV-2 to date and appears to disappear with the development of neutralising antibodies. Again this is similar to MERS-CoV and influenza.

Notwithstanding the above, UK Blood Services have taken a precautionary approach in deferring anyone with symptoms of possible SARS-CoV-2 infection (all blood donors are asked to confirm that they are healthy and well on the day of donation and that they have not been unwell in the 14-days prior to donation) and withdrawing blood components made by anyone developing such symptoms within 5 days of donation.

In January 2020 UK Blood Services put in place a 21-day deferral for at-risk blood, cell and tissue donors (donors with a travel risk or contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19), later increased to 28 days in line with European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) risk assessment recommendations. However, in the 5th edition of ECDC risk assessment, this was reduced to 14 days and we have adjusted out deferral period accordingly.

Similarly, during the earlier phases of the outbreak, precautionary geographic deferrals were put in place for affected countries. However, there is now significant sustained UK–wide transmission and most international travel has ceased and so the identification of individual potential at-risk donors on the grounds of travel history has become redundant.

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Updated: 24 March 2020