Aberdeenshire could be lurching ever closer to level three restrictions after a week of outbreaks and rising infection levels across the region.
At yesterday’s daily briefing, Professor Jason Leitch said that while Aberdeen City is a “little bit of a mixed picture”, in Aberdeenshire “everything is up”.
The national clinical director explained that there has been an increase in cases in six of the previous seven days and the test positivity rate had risen from 4.3% to 5.2%.
The Scottish Government is due to review local authority restriction levels on Tuesday.
And though it appears Aberdeenshire’s Covid-19 restrictions will not change before then, it remains possible that could change.
Talks between the government, the north-east councils and public health directors about the situation took place yesterday and will continue over the weekend.
A number of high-profile outbreaks have been recorded across Aberdeenshire this week.
Yesterday that figure rose to 72.
Meanwhile, Aberdeenshire Council confirmed a ward at Kincardine Community Hospital will remain closed for the foreseeable future.
The Arduthie Ward at the Stonehaven hospital was shut after 16 cases of Covid-19 were detected.
All of the patients have been transferred to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.
During yesterday’s briefing, Prof Leitch said: “Aberdeen City is a little bit of a mixed picture.
“If you just look at the last week of data, the number of cases is down 29% – but has increased in four of the seven days.
“So, it’s important to look at the time of the prevalence of this virus. In terms of the test positivity, it has decreased from 5% to 3.7%.
“It’s good news, but not universal good news.
“In Aberdeenshire it is not such a mixed picture. Everything is up.”
Prof Leitch said the number of cases was up 21% up in the last seven days and there have been increases recorded in six of the last seven days.
Test positivity has risen to 5.2% from 4.3%.
“They are not the only things we consider, we have to absolutely look with the directors of public health about outbreaks, about the capacity of NHS Grampian, and about other things that are happening in the local authority and the surrounding areas,” Prof Leitch added.
“Even today, we are having a conversation with the director of public health and those conversations will continue with the local authorities, with our support and advice, over the weekend.”
When asked if the rise in cases in Aberdeenshire would result in restrictions being applied to both Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: “We are monitoring those cases very closely and the data indicates there is a greater problem in Aberdeenshire than in Aberdeen City.
“But what we’re exploring very closely and what we have asked for further work to be undertaken on is to try and identify the degree to which individual outbreaks, for example, meat or fish processing factories, are inflating the position within the Aberdeenshire area.”
He added the investigation would look to determine how these cases might be “flowing into community transmission”.
Mr Swinney said the government has to be “satisfied” that community transmission is not a “significant threat”.
A spokeswoman for the incident management team investigating the 72 cases at Inchmarlo House said the situation is being monitored closely, alongside teams from the Aberdeenshire Health and Social Care Partnership and NHS Grampian.
A spokeswoman for the care home added: “Inchmarlo House continues to work closely with relevant authorities to address the ongoing situation.”
Level three not justifiable
Aberdeen’s economy would suffer huge harm if it were moved into level three alongside neighbouring Aberdeenshire, the city council’s co-leader has said.
Douglas Lumsden believes it would not be justifiable to tighten measures on the Granite City.
He said: “It seems that cases in Aberdeen are pretty much going down, while in the Shire they seems to be doing the opposite.
“There is no need for us to both go into tier three together.
“We didn’t both go into lockdown together in August, so there would be no need for that to happen now.
“I do not believe there is a case for Shire to go into tier 3, but if they do, it should have nothing to do with the city.
“The same argument can be said for Moray as it borders with the Shire as well.
“It should not be assumed that if your neighbour goes into a higher tier, you go into a higher tier.”
He added: “The move will be damaging to the city as it would result in fewer people coming in for shopping and everything else.”
Stewart McPhee, director of the Siberia bar on Belmont Street and spokesman for the Aberdeen Hospitality Together group said his business would shut temporarily if the city was to go into the third tier.
He said: “I do have concerns if Aberdeenshire gets worse.
“When it was bad in the city they didn’t lockdown the surrounding area, but if the numbers get worse in Aberdeenshire where will that leave us?”