A “SMALL number” of people have been hospitalised after contracting Covid-19 in the islands this month – and the community should remain “careful and considerate” while not being “unduly worried” by the current infection rate, according to NHS Shetland.
There have been over 100 cases recorded in Shetland this July – the highest sustained level of incidence the islands have seen during the pandemic.
But it has coincided with a vaccination programme that has outstripped the rest of the UK for pace, offering protection to more than 80 per cent of residents and significantly reducing the risk of becoming seriously ill with Covid-19.
Only one further case was recorded in Wednesday’s official government figures. The seven-day average per 100,000 population, which covers the period up to 25 July, has fallen to 135.5 against a Scotland-wide average of 175.6.
Tuesday saw the UK record its highest death toll from Covid-19 since early March with 131 fatalities recorded, although case numbers have fallen sharply in the past week.
Following an alarming spike in cases of the Delta variant earlier in the summer, case numbers in Scotland are now around a third of the level seen in early July.
NHS Shetland’s interim director of public health Dr Susan Laidlaw said that as society reopened it was “inevitable the virus will be carried into Shetland”.
“This is why it is so important to be vaccinated and, when the booster shot becomes available, to have that too, because vaccination does reduce the risk of serious illness,” Dr Laidlaw told Shetland News.
“Over and above the vaccination, hand washing, wearing face coverings, social distancing and avoiding crowds will help reduce spread. And it is still important to self-isolate if you have Covid symptoms and to request a PCR test.
“The numbers of cases in Shetland are not unexpected – all the islands are now experiencing more cases than previously, and recent rates are now similar to other rural areas in Scotland.
“There is no need to be unduly worried by our current numbers, but equally we cannot be complacent and need to continue to be careful and considerate.”
Shetland has been living under “level zero” restrictions since June, with greater levels of social contact and travel outwith the islands permitted, and it is expected some remaining measures will be removed across Scotland from 9 August.
The health board, Shetland Islands Council and some local businesses have been affected by the volume of people being asked to self-isolate.
Asked if contact tracers were facing hostility from members of the public, Dr Laidlaw said there were “occasions where people can be frustrated” at being asked to self isolate and “a small number of people have been hostile or abusive to the contact tracers”.
“But on the whole, people have been polite and co-operative, even if frustrated or upset, and understand that the contact tracers are just doing their job,” she said.
In terms of the vaccination programme – which today (Wednesday) sees a walk-in clinic held at Lerwick’s Independent Living Centre between 2pm and 7pm – Dr Laidlaw said it was too early to put a figure on the number of people who have received a first dose and then declined a second.
“We cannot tell that yet as those who were later in getting their first dose are not yet due their second. We are aware of a small number of people who have specifically said they do not want the second dose.”
She added that, while there is generally a lower uptake in younger age groups, people in that category were still coming forward for their first vaccination.
“Often they have not been able to attend when invited because of work or being away from Shetland or other commitments. This is more marked now than it was at the beginning of the year when there were more restrictions on travel etc.”
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