A significant spike in the number of Covid cases across the Highlands has resulted in the health board calling on communities to step up their efforts in the fight against the pandemic.
NHS Highland is appealing to people across the Highlands and Argyll and Bute to follow the rules as it reveals an array of virus hotspots.
There has been a significant increase in the number of positive Covid tests across the NHS Highland board area over the last two weeks, with 83 in the last 24 hours alone.
Inverness, Beauly, Dingwall, Invergordon, Alness and Caithness have been highlighted as particular areas of concern.
More than 700 new cases have been recorded since Christmas Eve, which has resulted in health officials encouraging people to continue to follow national guidance on social distancing, self-isolation and mixing indoors.
Pre-Christmas socialising, combined with people mixing indoors during the festive period, is being blamed for the sharp rise in cases.
Significant increase in case numbers across Highland
Dr Ken Oates, NHS Highland public health consultant, said: “We recognise that 2020 was an extremely challenging year for everyone and that we all have made significant sacrifices to reduce the spread of Covid cases as much as possible.
“Unfortunately, there has been a significant increase in case numbers across Highland in the last two weeks, particularly in Inverness, Beauly, Dingwall, Invergordon, Alness and Caithness.
“We believe that this is due to pre-Christmas socialising, combined with people mixing indoors over the festive period.
“This has led to many extended family clusters and we would once again encourage people not to mix with others outside your household, as this is driving up infection rates.
We must all take action to protect each other and the NHS across Highland, Argyll and Bute.”
Dr Ken Oates
“Please adhere to the new national guidance issued earlier this week to stay at home.
“We appreciate how challenging this has been for many people, however when the number of cases of Covid rises in our communities, we inevitably also see an increase in positive cases in health care workers and care home staff.
“This has a detrimental effect on NHS services as well as the health and wellbeing of some of the most vulnerable people in our communities.
“We must all take action to protect each other and the NHS across Highland, Argyll and Bute.”
‘Covid will spread rapidly if given the opportunity’
Dr Oates has urged people across the north to continue to follow national guidance on Covid – in particular isolating at home if you feel unwell in any way and seeking a test.
“Covid will spread rapidly if given the opportunity, especially with the new strain which spreads much more easily,” he said.
“We are asking that everyone thinks about the risks involved in increasing the number of people you come into contact with and to please follow the rules to help us in reducing the spread of the virus.”
New testing trial at rural fire stations
As part of a trial to increase access in remote and rural areas this month, testing has been made available at fire stations in Thurso and Lochgilphead.
The test sites will operate until January 29. People within driving or walking distance who have symptoms will be able to book a test slot by calling NHS Highland.