Moray is to remain in Level three of Scotland’s coronavirus tiered system for at least another week, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced.
The region, which has been plagued by rising cases of Covid-19 in recent weeks, has been kept in the heightened level of restrictions as the rest of mainland Scotland moves to Level 2 from Monday.
Earlier this week, Ms Sturgeon said the region was “most likely” to remain in the enhanced level until the virus spread is brought back under control.
And on Friday afternoon Ms Sturgeon confirmed the news, saying: “It is prudent for Moray to remain in level three for a further week so that we can be more confident that the situation is firmly under control.
“The position will be reviewed at the end of next week at which point I hope Moray will move to level two”.
Infection rates soared earlier this week
Moray experienced a surge in cases this week with the infection rate hitting more than 100 per 100,000 of population.
The decision to remain in Level 2 comes as NHS Grampian accelerates the vaccination programme to include all those over the age of 18, with all expected to be vaccinated by the end of the month.
Case numbers have dropped in recent days with NHS Grampian welcoming the “encouraging signs”.
Only two cases were recorded in Moray yesterday, a third of all cases in Grampian.
“I know it’s disheartening…”
Moray Council’s chief executive Roddy Burns has issued a statement following the Scottish Government’s announcement that Moray will remain in level three restrictions from Monday.
He said: “I know it’ll be disheartening for Moray residents and businesses, and those with plans to visit the area, that we’ll remain in Level 3 of restrictions from Monday. There’s reassurance that Moray is doing well, we’re just not there yet. So we’re optimistic that extended restrictions will only be for a short time, and we’ll soon be joining the rest of mainland Scotland in Level 2 and enjoying more of the freedoms that come with this relaxation.
“This is only a possibility due to the huge community effort in the last couple of weeks. We’ve seen a 400% increase in testing, and thousands of residents have been rolling up their sleeves as part of the accelerated vaccination programme. My heartfelt thanks to our council and NHS colleagues delivering testing and vaccinations, to all those who have taken part, and to those in our business community who have helped facilitate this. These measures are vital in driving down transmission of the virus here in Moray, and we’re making progress – let’s keep at it.
“Meantime we can still support local businesses safely as we pull together to get out of this particularly challenging period, as we prepare to welcome visitors back to Moray – responsibly – as soon as possible.”
Deputy director of public health at NHS Grampian, Chris Littlejohn, said: “The number of new cases identified each day has levelled off over the past week. Around 80% of new infections are in those linked to known clusters and settings, up from around a third when concern was growing about Moray numbers. This flattening of case numbers, and the reduction in new infections where the source is unknown, suggests that the community outbreak across Moray is coming under control. We are grateful for the continuing willingness of people to get tested, so that cases and contacts can be found and isolated, to now begin bringing the number of new infections down.
“This progress has been made because people are doing the right things – getting tested, sticking to the guidelines and self-isolating when required to. Vaccination continues at pace, and our testers and contact tracers continue to work tirelessly to support the area.
“The current restrictions and interventions appear to be working. This is not the moment to lower our guard. But we hope we can see the end of the current outbreak not too far ahead if we stick with it, and by another few weeks we should see the further impact from the accelerated vaccination program.
“The incident management team view is that we need to see a sustained drop in cases, a drop in the rates per 100,000, and a sustained drop in the R-rate to below one before restrictions should be loosened in Moray. With numbers flattening already that will hopefully be achievable sooner rather than later.
“We also need to ensure that when we do relax that cases are at a low enough level it is sustainable and numbers won’t rocket 14 days later again.
“We’ve seen a huge collective effort from the people of Moray, who are working alongside us to #ProtectMoray, and for that we cannot thank you enough.”