Scotland’s national clinical director, Jason Leitch, described the rise in coronavirus cases across the north-east as “worrying” – with the rate of positive cases in the city now above the national average.
Mr Leitch said Aberdeen is “the week’s big concern” but stressed that even in Moray, where case numbers are low, the numbers are “rising slightly”.
It comes as Health Secretary Jeane Freeman revealed the option for a post-Christmas lockdown in Scotland “remains on the table”, as she issued a plea for shoppers to avoid this year’s Boxing Day sales.
Mr Leitch’s remarks followed a warning from NHS Grampian health chiefs that the virus is “circulating widely” across the region, making it “eminently probable” that the region could be placed under level four restrictions in the weeks ahead.
When asked about the situation in the north-east during the daily coronavirus briefing on Friday, Mr Leitch said: “Grampian is worrying. It has been worrying for some weeks.
“It’s a slightly different story in the three local authorities.
“Of course, Moray has really low levels but even in Moray, the numbers are rising slightly.
“Aberdeen City is the week’s big concern. It has gone above the Scottish average now.
“The latest number I have is 140 per 100,000, that’s up from 73 10 days ago.
“Aberdeenshire is stable but has slightly risen from 84 through 72 up to 90.
“Grampian illustrates once again the nature of getting this virus down being so hard, and rising so easy, which is why we have to act fast and hard before the numbers move in order to saves those lives.”
The country’s national clinical director urged residents in the north-east, and across Scotland, not to go to the “edge of the guidance” during the festive period and to stay within the rules by “quite a margin”.
Virus ‘never went away’
On the rise in case numbers, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said the “data is there for us all to see”, stressing that the government would continue to monitor the figures.
She added: “We’ve moved those areas to level three in response to that.
“We don’t move a local authority area into level three or down to level two or one without continuing to look and see what is happening.”
The health secretary urged residents to “make every effort” to follow the level three restrictions.
We reduce it by our actions and it comes back when we ease up on those.”
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman
She added: “When we talk about reducing the virus and it coming back, the fact of the matter is, it never went away.
“We reduce it by our actions and it comes back when we ease up on those.”
This includes thinking “really carefully” about Christmas plans, as not seeing other households is the “safest way” to enjoy the festive period.
The Cabinet Secretary also revealed Scotland has recorded 36 deaths from coronavirus and 744 positive tests in the past 24 hours.
A total of 172 of these new cases were in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 158 in Lothian and 94 in Grampian.
When asked if Scotland would follow Northern Ireland and Wales in preparing for lockdowns in the days after Christmas, Ms Freeman said the cabinet will review coronavirus restrictions on Tuesday before a decision is announced to MSPs.
She said: “Nothing at this point can sensibly be ruled out but we will look at what the information we have tells us, the judgments we think are the right judgments to make, and we will make that clear on Tuesday when the First Minister speaks in the Scottish Parliament.
“Every possible option remains on the table.”
The health secretary said the relaxation of restrictions from December 23 to 27 provided a “limited window of flexibility” rather than a “period of time where we think it is safe to meet”.
If possible, people should meet other households outdoors and keep to two households at a maximum of eight people but she said that meeting within one’s own household is the “safest way to spend Christmas”.
Ms Freeman warned shoppers to avoid the Boxing Day sales, which are likely to be crowded, stating there could be “nothing in those sales that is worth the risk”.