NHS bosses have described outbreaks at north care homes as “clear evidence” of how prevalent and dangerous the virus has become in the Highlands.
Seven residents in Castle Gardens Care Home and 12 in Kintyre House Care Home in Invergordon have tested positive for Covid-19.
Some staff members at each care home have also been confirmed positive.
NHS Highland is working with health and social care colleagues, as well as local community nursing teams and local GPs, to prevent any further spread of Covid-19 within the care homes and the wider community.
It follows outbreaks in nearby Dingwall, where Highland health officials linked 20 cases of coronavirus to two Ross-shire pubs.
The health authority has now reinforced the infection control measures the care homes are required to take to prevent others from falling ill.
An NHS support team has also been made available to help care for residents while employees are isolating at home.
Outbreak clear evidence of how serious present situation is
Elisabeth Smart, NHS Highland’s consultant in public health, said: “Unfortunately, we have seen from other parts of the country that when infection levels rise in the wider community that infection can spread into care homes.
“This local outbreak is clear evidence of how serious the present situation is for the Highlands as a whole.
“The number of cases of Covid-19 has increased significantly since Christmas and we all have a role to play to protect the most vulnerable members of our families and our communities.
“The measures that have been put in place will ensure that the outbreak is as contained as possible and we will continue to support both care homes until this outbreak is over and all those affected are no longer infectious.
“The key public health messages are to stay at home and only leave the house for essential purposes. If you, or someone you live with, develops symptoms then adhere to the national advice and stay at home.
Highland rates as high as Edinburgh
He said: “We have seen a sharp rise in case numbers in Highland and I was hearing yesterday that our rates are as high as down in Edinburgh.
“There was a belief before that rates were higher further down in the Central Belt – but we are seeing lots of cases up here in Highland now.”
Meanwhile, Covid-19 cases recorded in the NHS Grampian area have exceeded the 10,000 mark, according to the latest figures.
The north-east’s total now stands at 10,057 after the number of positive cases in the north and north-east rose by 258 between Saturday and Sunday.