Health bosses have issued an urgent plea to Moray residents to self-isolate if they have Covid symptoms amid concerns about rule breakers.
Concerns have been raised people are continuing to visit other households despite displaying signs or the virus or being identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive.
Moray has experienced a surge of Covid-19 in recent weeks and currently has the highest rate of the infection in Scotland with 81.4 cases per 100,000 people in seven days – while neighbouring Aberdeenshire and Highland are at 11.
The sharp rise has put in doubt the region moving to Level 2 restrictions with the rest of the country later this month.
Covid surge in Moray could still get worse
NHS Grampian has admitted the situation may yet worsen in the coming days once the impact of the May Day weekend becomes apparent.
No cause has been pinpointed for the spread with health officials admitting the origin of about a third of cases is a mystery.
And now it has been revealed concerns have been raised about Moray residents not self-isolating despite being told to do so.
The area will see further increases potentially leading to hospitalisations and possibly deaths.”
Dr Jamie Hogg, clinical director at Dr Gray’s Hospital
Dr Jamie Hogg, clinical director at Dr Gray’s Hospital in Elgin, said: “Anecdotally we’re being made of aware of people either with symptoms or who have been asked to self-isolate by contract tracers not doing so.
“Our message is simple, self-isolate or Moray will become isolated. The area will see further increases potentially leading to hospitalisations and possibly deaths.
“It is vital to protect each other, protect business and the wider region that people self-isolate and get a test when they have symptoms or when they are asked to do so by Test and Protect.
“From what our contact tracers are being told, we are increasingly concerned that there are people in the area who have become complacent to the virus and aren’t following the guidelines – from small breaches to the more serious.”
Fears Covid cases could lead to longer restrictions
Throughout last year Moray recorded the lowest rates of Covid-19 in mainland Scotland.
The low numbers allowed the region to enjoy the relative freedom of Level 1 restrictions, which allowed small events to take place and hospitality to open up more.
However, the region may now be forced to endure Level 3 restrictions longer than any other part of the country unless the trend is reversed quickly.
Paul Southworth, public health consultant at NHS Grampian, explained there had been an increase in Covid hospital admissions from Moray this week.
He said: “There is no business, school or organisation behind the rise in cases.
“We are seeing community spread across the region, but particularly focused in Elgin and the surrounding area. That is across all age groups and demographics.
“We need to recognise that this is not about one or two incidents of poor behaviour but about an increased risk across the whole community.”
Testing expanded in Moray to slow spread
Officials have expanded the range of symptoms in Moray where people should seek a Covid test to include a sore throat, diarrhoea and general weakness.
Testing for those not showing any symptoms has been made available on Elgin High Street to try and ensure cases are caught quicker to limit the spread.
Moray Council has issued pleas to residents to abide by the rules to ensure restrictions do not impact the education of young people.
We all have a role to play in stopping the spread of Covid 👇
◾ Follow the rules
◾ Get tested, even if you've mild or extended symptoms
◾ Visit our community testing sites if you don't have symptoms – you could be spreading the virus without knowinghttps://t.co/ZsLMscklDH
— Moray Council (@MorayCouncil) May 5, 2021
The current outbreak has been described as “some of the toughest weeks of the pandemic” yet by officials.
Chief executive Roddy Burns said: “Ultimately if the situation continues to escalate we may find ourselves living with restrictions which could severely impact on our daily lives – affecting education, businesses being able to operate or using sporting facilities if rates continue to increase.
“We could either be left behind in terms of unlocking or even see other, stronger, restrictions imposed on the region.
“It’s vital that everyone continues to play their part in protecting each other, protecting businesses and ultimately protecting Moray.”
Covid concerns already hitting tourism
The rising surge of cases is already affecting the tourism industry in the region.
Concerns have been raised that visitors have been put off by potentially having fewer freedoms in Moray compared to other parts of the country.
Laurie Piper, chief executive of Visit Moray Speyside, said: “We are already seeing cancellations coming through on account of people seeing online and social media speculation about a ‘local lockdown’.
“For our tourism industry this isn’t a hypothetical problem possibly a few weeks down the road, it is hitting their bookings and bottom line already.
“We are not talking about another lockdown, but that Moray may not be able to move to level two along with the rest of Scotland.
“To avoid this, people across the region have to play their part in supressing this virus and following the rules. It isn’t just the potentially serious health implications, there is already an impact on jobs and people’s livelihoods.
“If you break the guidelines you might spread the virus, and that is bad enough, but ultimately you might cost someone their job or business.
“I’d beg everyone to please continue play their part or there is a real threat Moray will be behind when the rest of Scotland moves to level two in a couple of weeks.”
How and when to organise a Covid test
Those with any of the symptoms listed below should book a test, via nhsinform.scot or call 0800 028 2816 if you cannot get online, and must not attend sites asymptomatic testing sites.
Those with both classic and extended symptoms in Moray should immediately book a test via nhsinform.scot or call 0800 028 2816 if you cannot get online.
Extended symptoms include:
- General weakness
- Sore throat
- Shortness of breath
- Muscle pain
- Runny nose
- Dry or productive cough
The individual and their whole household, including any extended or bubble members, should self-isolate immediately self-isolate until the test results are returned.
A timetable of when asymptomatic testing is available at locations across Moray can be found here.