NHS Highland has warned of an increase in Covid cases in an Inverness community.
The health board is now putting in place asymptomatic testing facilities in Merkinch in an effort to clamp down on any spread of coronavirus.
The increase appears to be linked to a small cluster within the local school, and to wider family clusters in the local area.
All positive cases and their close contacts have been advised to stay at home and isolate as per national guidance.
NHS Highland is reminding everyone to be vigilant and, if they have any of the three main Covid symptoms – a new continuous cough, temperature, loss of or change in sense of taste or smell – they should immediately self-isolate and book a Covid test.
The asymptomatic testing units will allow people without any of the signs to check they are safe, as those who do not display any symptoms can still spread the virus.
Plea to get tested
Dr Jenny Wares, consultant in public health medicine with NHS Highland, said the expansion of the testing scheme should help to combat the rise in cases.
She said: “Many people who have coronavirus have no symptoms, or mild symptoms, and will be spreading it without realising it.
“By expanding community testing in areas where there is higher prevalence of the virus we will be able to identify more cases giving us a better chance of stopping it from spreading.
“The asymptomatic testing, testing for those without symptoms, will allow us to identify those who are positive but do not have symptoms.
“We can then advise them to self-isolate and therefore prevent spread.
“More testing helps to show us how the virus is spread and will help us reduce risk.
“I would encourage residents in Merkinch, who don’t have any of the three Covid symptoms, or who only have very mild symptoms, to get tested.”
How to book an appointment
A mobile testing unit will be in the car park of the Merkinch Community Centre from Monday until Friday.
It will be open from 9.30am to 5pm.
It is appointment only but will allow both symptomatic and asymptomatic testing to be carried out.
To book an appointment, people should contact NHS Inform either online or by calling 0800 028 2816.
When booking, people should select the option “I have been asked to book a test by my local council or health protection team” which will allow them to book a test even if you don’t have symptoms.
Help available for those who need to isolate
For those requiring to self-isolate, Highland Council can co-ordinate a range of support including collection of food shopping and prescriptions.
Anyone who will lose income as a result of staying at home may also be eligible for the £500 self-isolation support grant.
More information is available by contacting the Council’s Covid Helpline on 0300 303 1362.
‘We can fight this virus’
Dr Wares added: “Numbers across the NHS Highland area have decreased since Christmas which is why it is really important that we do everything we can when we see an increase in cases to ensure we can limit the spread as much as possible.
“It is also really important that all of us continue to follow FACTS – wear a face covering, avoid crowded places, clean your hands regularly, maintain two metres distance and self-isolate and book a test if you have symptoms.
“As it is now the Easter break, we would like to take this opportunity to emphasise the need to follow all current Scottish Government guidance, particularly with respect to socialising, in order to minimise the risk of transmission.
“Lockdown is slowly being eased and it has been a very challenging year of restrictions but I would ask that everyone adhere to the guidelines. By doing this we can fight this virus.”