COVID outbreaks such as the current one at Scalloway School have been expected and will become part of the new normal, according to NHS Shetland’s interim director of public health Dr Susan Laidlaw.
She told Shetland News on Monday that the pandemic has become a lot more manageable thanks to the high uptake of vaccination which has led to far fewer people getting seriously ill from the virus.
However, she could not rule out that new restrictions might come in response to the dramatically rising infection rate across Scotland.
In Shetland five new cases were added on Monday to the 21 confirmed at the weekend. More cases linked to the Scalloway outbreak are expected to be confirmed tomorrow (Tuesday).
Dr Laidlaw said that not all these cases were linked to Scalloway School; there is also still a constant flow of new cases mainly related to travel on and off the islands.
She added the majority of cases at the school were among pupils who had very mild symptoms, if any at all. No one has been hospitalised.
“We are trying to identify if there are any more within that setting, and then carry on with the other contract tracing that we do normally,” she said.
The first case was picked up on Friday with more cases coming to light on Saturday due to lateral flow testing, Dr Laidlaw explained.
A public announcement was made on Sunday once the lateral flow tests were confirmed through PCR testing.
She said the rise in cases was “inevitable” and added: “The difference now compared to previous outbreaks is that we see mild illnesses, certainly in children.
“That is not to say that there aren’t some that can get very ill, particularly adults, but for most people it is just quite a mild illness like a cold or flu or [no] symptoms whatsoever.
“That ‘s why we have been able to move to opening up more because the effects on individuals in terms of their health is generally not so great.
“But is a really difficult message because on the one hand we are saying we can opening up and ease restrictions while on the other hands we are saying we want everybody vaccinated, still have restrictions in hospitals and want people to test regularly.”
She added: “It is really hard to compare the numbers now with what they have been previously because we are just testing so many people, and a lot of people have no symptoms at all.
“There is the chance that restrictions might be reintroduced, but what they would be I don’t know.”
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