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Coronavirus / Spike in Western Isles Covid-19 cases a ‘warning to us all’

A RECENT spike in cases in the Western Isles shows that Shetland cannot be complacent about Covid-19, according to health board chairman Gary Robinson.

He told a meeting of the NHS Shetland board on Tuesday that the numbers in the Western Isles is “probably a warning to us all”.

The Western Isles had 10 confirmed cases on 24 September but as of Monday (5 October) that figure had reached 47.

Gary Robinson.

Speaking about Shetland’s tally of 60, Robinson said there was a temptation to link the cases to workers or tourists.

“I think that most of the cases that we have seen is from local people going about their ordinary business,” he said.

The discussion followed a recent letter from the leaders of the Shetland, Orkney and Western Isles councils encouraging the Scottish Government to consider more localised coronavirus restrictions, with concern especially over the social impact of the current rules.

Meanwhile the Scottish Government is expected to make an announcement in the near future over possible new restrictions, or a “circuit breaker”.

A presentation from director of public health Susan Webb at Tuesday’s meeting highlighted that nearly 2,000 tests were carried out in Shetland in September.

Six hundred and sixty one of those were done via the local laboratory.

This included 221 hospital inpatients, 168 people undertaking pre-operation testing and 47 NHS staff.

Over 1,000 tests were done in September from weekly testing of care home staff, while 260 tests were completed through the self-request UK Government scheme.

Between 1 June and 30 September the total number of tests carried out in Shetland sat at 5,867.

In September there were four cases confirmed in Shetland, with 81 contacts associated with these.

There was no evidence to suggest that the four cases were epidemiologically linked to each other.

Webb highlighted that there was an increasing number of cases on the Scottish mainland, with around 730 cases per day now being recorded.

This leads to a greater number of hospital and intensive care admissions, she said.

Webb, meanwhile, said the local test and protect team did a “fantastic job” with the four cases recorded in Shetland in September.

She also noted the work of the public health team “often unseen” by the public, adding that much of the attention tends to focus on any confirmed cases.

Webb also said that NHS Shetland is in discussion about analysing local routine care home tests in a regional hub in Aberdeen and not in Glasgow, as is the case at the moment.

She also highlighted some of the partnership work that has been at play, with regular meetings with the education service, for instance.

A positive case was recorded at Whiteness Primary School in September.

Webb concluded her presentation by saying a rising number of cases on the mainland increases the risk of Covid-19 being taken to Shetland.

“We cannot afford to let our guard down,” she said.

She added that the recent restrictions imposed by the Scottish Government should not be seen as “unnecessary”.

When questioned about the capacity of contact tracers in Shetland, Webb said the health board is working to national staffing levels.

She added that local contact tracers have also provided support to larger health boards on the mainland.

NHS Shetland chief executive Michael Dickson commented that the public health team has been “front and centre” in the isles’ response to Covid-19.

He said he that was “quite rightly so” as they are the “experts”.

Robinson echoed the praise, saying there had been an “enormous effort” put in since the start of the pandemic.

But he stressed his warning over complacency, saying it “can be anybody” who gets infected with Covid-19.