A GP has warned Highlanders have “a very small window” of as little as a fortnight to change the course of the coronavirus in the north.
Dr Ross Jaffrey, of Croyard Medical Practice in Beauly, believes if members of the public follow the strict measures currently in place to limit interaction with others, the Highlands will not feel the full force of the virus as devastatingly as other areas might.
He said: “We have a unique position here in Highland in that our population density is not so much.
“We have got a very small window here to stop transmission in Highland.
“We have got the next two or three weeks – they are absolutely crucial in what we do.
“Everyone has got to behave as if they have the virus. It might be that they do not have it, but you have got to behave as if you have do and you are sharing it all the time.”
Dr Jaffrey has warned that public attitude must change to ensure the Highlands best prepares itself for a potential spike in the number of cases reported.
He believes more should be done to identify areas where cases are reported to best protect the most vulnerable in those communities.
The GPs plea comes after NHS Highland refused to break down the geographical location of reported cases in the interest of “patient confidentiality” and following “national guidance”.
Dr Jaffrey added: “We live in small communities, therefore, if you did define an area with only a handful of families living in it then that is probably a consideration.
“I think though if we give a wider spectrum and an area as a locality – for example, the Black Isle, and say ‘We know there are cases in the Black Isle’ then you would maybe get a behaviour change.
“Unless people think it’s real, they don’t tend to think it is going to happen to them.
“There was a lot of misinformation at the beginning saying that this was just like a flu.
“This is a brand new virus that no one has any immunity to.”
The doctor has advised members of the public to continue to use hand sanitiser where available, to wash their hands with soap and water and to follow the guidelines to help reduce the chances of transmission.
Dr Jaffrey has been contacted by those in the healthcare sector who have highlighted shortages of hand sanitiser for those dealing with vulnerable categories.
In an effort to address the issue, he has taken upon himself to forge links with the whisky industry by contacting local distilleries to seek their assistance, with two already committing to providing alcohol to make hand gel.
He hopes to encourage behavioural change by getting shops and areas with large footfall to introduce hand sanitising stations at all entry and exit points.
“Simple hygiene measures can stop Covid-19 transmission and stopping one case can prevent several more”, he added.
The GP continues to provide his expertise during the pandemic by undertaking shifts at Inverness Covid Centre to ease the burden on the vital resources at the north’s flagship hospital, Raigmore.
He added: “The critical care capacity at Raigmore is the most important thing in order to try and keep people alive, so, we need to send the right people in at the right time.”
He has urged members of the public to remain safe and to look after their families and friends.