Moray residents are being warned not to let the region “get left behind” as the country unlocks, amid concern over rapidly surging Covid-19 cases in the area.
Since April 10, Moray has recorded more than 100 new cases, with around half of those in the last seven days.
It now has one of the highest rates of Covid in the country, and in the past week accounted for close to 50% of NHS Grampian’s cases – despite being home to less than 17% of the health board’s population.
The rate per 100,000 people in the area currently sits at 50.1. In Aberdeen City the rate is 15.7, while Aberdeenshire is at 8.4.
Although cases are scattered across the region, Elgin has seen the majority.
As a result, NHS Grampian is expanding testing and urging those with symptoms including sore throats, headaches and diarrhoea to book tests immediately, as well as encouraging people to take up asymptomatic testing.
Susan Webb, NHS Grampian’s director of public health, 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.”
Rapid testing for those without any symptoms will be available from Williamson Hall in Elgin’s Moss Street from Thursday. Other testing sites in the region can be found here.
Ms Webb added: “So if people who have no symptoms are out shopping or getting a coffee, we’d encourage them to pop past to get a test and offer themselves some reassurance and help protect he community from those asymptomatic cases.
“It is vital we get the virus back under control in Moray and not let it run away from us.”
Monday marked the biggest raft of changes made in Scotland since the country went back into lockdown on Boxing Day.
Pubs, restaurants, cafes and non-essential shops are back open for business.
Libraries, gyms, swimming pools, and visitor attractions such as museums and art galleries are also able to reopen as the country moved to level three of the Scottish Government’s five-tier Covid alert system.
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.
“If you have any symptoms at all, please go and get tested – it protects not only your family, neighbours and friends, but also our hospitals, businesses, care homes and services across Moray.”
Moray Council’s chief executive, Roddy Burns, added: “To get this under control before it escalates any further we need to get as many people tested as possible – it is especially vital if people are experiencing any symptoms at all.
“We need to hit this hard and catch this early.
“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.
“As hard as it may feel, don’t meet people indoors, don’t hug each other, don’t meet in large groups.
“We’ve come so far and we need to keep going until we get to the end.”
Laurie Piper, CEO of Visit Moray Speyside, highlighted that Moray’s tourism businesses are “vital for the local economy and sustain thousands of people’s livelihoods”.
She added: “It’s crucial that everyone follows the guidelines, including those around social distancing and mask wearing, and by getting tested where appropriate.
“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.”
Classic symptoms include:
- Continuous cough
- Loss of taste or smell
Extended symptoms include:
- General weakness
- Sore throat
- Shortness of breath
- Muscle pain
- Runny nose
- Dry or productive cough
For more information and to book a test, go to nhsinform.scot or call 0800 028 2816.