People in Moray are being warned to follow coronavirus rules to avoid creating a “perfect storm” as lockdown eases amid a surge in cases in the region.
NHS Grampian said that since April 10 the area has seen more than 100 new cases, with around half of those in the last seven days as the infection rate increases locally.
Moray currently has one of the highest rates of Covid-19 in the country and is well ahead of the rest of the NHS Grampian region.
In the last week it accounted for close to 50% of Grampian’s cases although it is home to less than 17% of the population.
The rate per 100,000 people in the area currently sits at 50.1, far above Aberdeen City where the rate is 15.7 and Aberdeenshire where it is at 8.4.
The health board is now expanding testing in the region, where Elgin has seen the majority of cases, to those with a wider range of symptoms and is also encouraging people to take up asymptomatic testing.
NHS Grampian director of public health Susan Webb said: “We really are on a worrying trajectory in Moray and it is vital everyone ensures they are sticking to the rules to ensure the area isn’t left behind as the rest of the country unlocks.
“There is a real fear, that with unlocking and the May Day weekend, if individuals don’t act responsibly and stick with the guidelines they could create the perfect storm in the area.
“Until now Moray has escaped the worst of the pandemic, but we could now see Moray get left behind as the country unlocks.
“Due to this rise, we’re extending our usual testing service. As well as asking those with the usual Covid symptoms to get tested, we need those experiencing ‘mild or extended symptoms’ to come forward for testing.
“This wider range of symptoms includes chills, fever, a dry or productive cough, sore throat, headache, runny nose, shortness of breath, general weakness, muscle pain, diarrhoea, or loss of taste or smell to book a PCR test immediately. You can do this online by going to nhsinform.scot or call 0800 028 2816 if you cannot get online. ”
She added: “It is vital we get the virus back under control in Moray and not let it run away from us.”
The site for asymptomatic testing in Elgin is moving to Williamson Hall, Moss Street, from Thursday.
Sam Thomas, chief nurse for Moray, said: “Residents in Moray have done exceptionally well in protecting both themselves and the region’s health care to this point, it is vital that we don’t let that slip as we continue to work and live with Covid-19 and the current levels of community transmission we are seeing in Moray.”
The local authority and tourism chiefs also urged people to get tested and follow coronavirus guidelines to prevent the situation from worsening and having an impact on the region’s ability to open up again.
Moray Council’s chief executive Roddy Burns said: “We do not want this to escalate and impact our ability to open up Moray’s healthcare services or economy.
“If each of us takes personal responsibility to protect ourselves we’ll be able to let our businesses thrive and welcome back tourists.”
Laurie Piper, chief executive of Visit Moray Speyside, said: “We must do all we can to protect the region and let us start to open up as planned. We can’t afford to let the hard work and sacrifices of the past months be lost.”