There are “clear signs” of new Covid cases reducing in Aberdeen, said NHS Grampian’s director of public health Susan Webb.
Cases were down to 155 per 100,000 people during the seven-day period ending January 25 – a reduction of 59% on the previous week.
In an update circulated to city MPs and councillors, Ms Webb said lockdown is having the desired effect and that “we are going in the right direction”.
However, she warned that cases were still at “very high levels”, and the situation “remains far from good”.
She added: “Incidence is more than five times higher now than it was back in September – after the August outbreaks were well and truly over.
“And while reducing, our overall positivity rate of 7.1% is still much higher than the World Health Organisation’s 5% threshold for easing restrictions.
“Covid continues to be widely dispersed in all communities but more cases are now associated with a known outbreak.
“The reduction in cases is happening in all city localities, so universal restrictions are working.
“With over half of all cases linked to a known outbreak, this makes test and protect even more effective.
“Over the last week over 90% of contacts were reached by our contact tracers within the standard of 72 hours from a test being taken.”
An average of nine patients were admitted to hospital with the virus over the seven-day period to January 25 – a reduction from 12 the previous week.
However, there are still more than 100 Covid inpatients.
Care homes in the city remain under pressure with overall occupancy levels around 90% – many at 100% – and 10 outbreaks.
Staff absence reduced to 4.1%, down from 4.6% the previous week.
On what could happen next, Ms Webb said: “With 6.2% of the city population vaccinated on January 18, and with reducing case numbers, there is definite cautious optimism.
“National modelling suggests that the grow rate in Scotland is between -4% and 1%, a considerable improvement from the previous projections.
“Locally within NHS Grampian, our modelling suggests that we have a reproduction rate of between 0.6 and 0.9 – approximately 50-90 cases per day across Grampian.”
In Scotland as a whole, there were 144.3 cases per 100,000 people in the seven days to January 27 – down week-on-week from 191.0, and the lowest since December 26.
All areas saw a fall, with the exception of Argyll and Bute, East Renfrewshire and Midlothian.
North Lanarkshire currently has the highest rate in Scotland (249.6, down from 300.3) and the Shetland Islands has the lowest (17.5, down from 74.2).
Ms Webb added that despite causes for optimism, case numbers remain far away from the low levels during September, and the health service is likely to remain under severe pressure for weeks to come.
The health board is now working on a route map for the next stage of the pandemic, which will focus on increasing vaccination uptake; targeting asymptomatic community testing; improving access to symptomatic testing; focusing on vulnerable and at risk people; and anticipating and mitigating the risks in the near future such as people returning to work and education.