NHS Grampian has warned it is “entirely possible” Moray will not move to level two coronavirus restrictions with the rest of the country as expected next Monday.
Health authorities in the area are currently dealing with “uncontrolled, sustained community transmission” of Covid-19, with current restrictions failing to contain the spread.
Latest statistics show Moray had 93.9 cases per 100,000 people in the seven days to May 7, significantly higher than the rate in the rest of Scotland.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is set to review coronavirus restrictions on Tuesday and will set out the final decisions for the next easing of restrictions scheduled for May 17, when the country is due to move down from level three to level two of restrictions.
But Chris Littlejohn, NHS Grampian’s deputy director of public health, warned: “The situation remains of great concern and according to previous Scottish Government thresholds, it’s entirely possible that Moray won’t move into level two.
“We have been delighted with the community response to our request for increased testing, and we are asking for that to continue as well as everyone’s continuing compliance with the regulations and rules.
“If the community continues to do the right things, level two won’t be far away. We are pleased to say there has been enormous interest in the accelerated vaccination programme for Moray.
“Our team is working its way through calls and queries as quickly as they can; we would ask people to be patient with us and, wherever possible, make every effort to attend the appointment made for them.
“We’ve also seen many people take up the enhanced testing offers – finding the virus and getting those with it to isolate, even if asymptomatic, really is the way we beat it and get Moray back on a level-footing with the rest of the country.
“The impact of being left behind could be quite significant. It will be painful and understandably it will be upsetting for many but with the extra vaccinations, testing and people sticking by the guidelines Moray will very soon be heading in the right direction and I’d thank each and every person who is playing their part in protecting Moray.”
Mr Littlejohn also pleaded with residents to “please stay patient” and reminded everyone to stick with the guidelines as “things aren’t going to improve overnight”.
It comes after Linda Bauld, professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh, also previously warned Moray may be in a different position from the rest of the country.
When speaking to BBC Good Morning Scotland earlier on Monday the figure was 98.1 cases per 100,000 in the seven days to May 6.
She said: “From what I understand from NHS Grampian colleagues this is not a specific outbreak as in a factory or another workplace, it is community transmission.
“I think what’s happened is we’ve still got a very transmissible virus, once you have clusters it does spread and it does seem to be in that local area, so I was particularly pleased to see two things.
“The first was opening of more testing sites in Moray and also giving good advice to people about the types of tests they can request based on symptoms or none, and the acceleration of that vaccine programme with invitations now being offered to younger adults more rapidly than elsewhere in Scotland.”
NHS Grampian is offering Covid-19 vaccinations to those aged 18-39 in Moray as part of moves to tackle the outbreak.
Meanwhile, the Covid-19 alert level in the UK has been downgraded from level four to level three after a “consistent” fall in cases, hospital admissions and deaths.
Scotland recorded 168 new cases of coronavirus but no deaths in the past 24 hours, according to the latest figures on Monday.
The death toll under this daily measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – remains at 7661.
The daily test positivity rate in Scotland on Sunday was 1.6%, up from 1.5% the previous day, while 72 people are in hospital with recently confirmed Covid-19 – six of them in intensive care.
So far 2,909,156 people have received the first dose of a Covid vaccination and 1,485,296 have received their second dose.