Door-to-door Covid testing could be rolled out in Moray to tackle what health chiefs have described as “uncontrolled, sustained community transmission” of the virus.
Cases in the region have escalated over the last few weeks, with an incident management team (IMT) being launched to bring the virus back under control.
There are now has 81.4 cases per 100,000 area, meaning it is the worst in Scotland.
East Dunbartonshire has the second highest with 41.4, while neighbouring Aberdeenshire and Highland are at 11.
Testing to be ramped up
In an attempt to get the virus under control, Covid testing is being ramped up throughout the region.
A mobile testing unit (MTU) is being set up at Elgin Academy and will be in operation from Friday morning.
The school has been at the epicentre of the Covid outbreak, with 51 cases linked to there.
Parents had previously been advised that the unit would arrive next week, but with a rapidly rising number of cases, the IMT made a decision to expedite the process.
The unit will provide PCR testing for staff and pupils on school days and be open to the public during the weekend.
These MTUs will also be visiting towns and villages around Moray in the coming days, with details on dates and times being published shortly online.
Amid the increases the opening hours at the UK Government-run testing site at Lossie Green in Elgin have been reduced from 8am to 8pm previously to 8am to 2.30pm now.
The facility now closes early before reopening at 3.30pm, following a deep clean, to distribute home test kits.
A Department for Health spokesman said: “Testing remains a vital part of the response to Covid-19 as we cautiously ease lockdown restrictions, which is why we have rolled out free regular, rapid testing for people without symptoms, meaning cases can be detected faster and more easily, and outbreaks can be stopped earlier.”
Covid rising in other Moray towns
Chris Littlejohn, deputy director of public health at NHS Grampian and chairman for the IMT, revealed towns such as Lossiemouth, Keith and Buckie were also recording rising Covid levels.
He said: “In Moray, we are now seeing uncontrolled, sustained community transmission, current restrictions not are containing it, and the situation is rapidly deteriorating.
“We are seeing hospitalisations from this – including in the under 50s – and we will see deaths if the situation is not brought under control.
“We are urging everyone to #ProtectMoray and get tested, even if they have no symptoms.
“We hope that by intervening further now we can avoid the possibility of further restrictions or a continuation of level three in Moray – but we need to act now and we need the people of Moray to act with us.
“Although Elgin is the epicentre of the spread, we are now seeing rising levels in places including Lossiemouth, Buckie and Keith.
“We are writing to businesses encouraging them to support us in getting the workforce tested, we are deploying extra mobile testing units and we are continuing with our enhanced testing in the region.”
Door-to-door Covid testing in Elgin is being considered by the IMT, with discussions ongoing about what this would look like.
It was undertaken in eight areas of England where the 105 cases were discovered, which including Surrey, Kent and Hertfordshire.
Moray MP Douglas Ross said: “The fact that door-to-door testing is being considered should act as a stark reminder to everybody just how severe this has become.
“I am not aware of that having happened anywhere else in Scotland during this pandemic.
“The advice is clear. Get tested, and if you do test positive, you must self-isolate.
“Community testing is widely available, and the health board is encouraging people to get tested whether they have symptoms or not.
“Many people will not display symptoms and could be spreading the disease without knowing it.”
Covid in Moray
Since April 10, there have been 210 cases in Moray, with more than half of those coming in the last eight days alone.
This has been described by health chiefs as a “rapidly accelerating situation.”
Test positivity in the region is at 3.2% – across Scotland, that figure is close to just 1%.
The R-rate is at 1.8, which means that every person in Moray that becomes infected, is on average, passing it to two other people.
Mr Littlejohn added: “Analytics have shown us many people in the region have returned to their workplaces, rather than working from home.
“It remains the advice people should work from home where possible and we really need people to do that, where they can.”
Book a test if you have symptoms of illness
NHS Grampian is asking anyone in Moray with any symptoms of illness, not just those with Covid-19, to isolate and book a test immediately.
People without symptoms are continuing to be asked to take up asymptomatic testing.
For the latest information on testing in Moray or to book a test visit here.