An extra strain was put on the accident and emergency department at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness by “staycationers” visiting the Highlands post-Covid-19 lockdown, it emerged yesterday.
NHS Highland’s board was told emergency attendances had been higher than anticipated as there were tourists who needed treatment during their visits following the relaxation of coronavirus restrictions.
Meanwhile, the board members also heard there were an average of 50 staff absences a month across NHS Highland’s 10,500 workforce as a result of coronavirus – with many showing symptoms staying at home as a precaution for two weeks or because of childcare implications as a result of the lockdown.
Dr Tim Allison, the health authority’s director of public health and policy, said: “We are almost at the point of having a total of 600 cases since the start of the pandemic across NHS Highland.
“About half of those cases are since the summer, but that is because the number of tests have vastly increased.
“There have been a small number of outbreaks in communities, and also family cases.
“There is also a link to urban centres as infection in Argyll and Bute is due to its proximity to Glasgow. The cases there are twice as many as in the north Highlands.”
Dr Allison said the possibility of a vaccine over the winter months would place another pressure on NHS Highland, given the geography of the region and the effort it would take to vaccinate the population.
He also warned that any possible vaccine would not be the end of Covid-19, saying that the earliest form might only have 50% effectiveness.