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Coronavirus / Caution advised over large Christmas gatherings: ‘Covid is still around’

PEOPLE and employers are being encouraged to be “mindful” around the risk of Covid spreading if they are hosting parties or work night outs in the run up to Christmas.

NHS Shetland’s interim public health director Dr Susan Laidlaw advised folk to be “really careful about how many people you are mixing with” – and in what setting, such as if it is a small venue.

Speaking in a media briefing on Tuesday, Dr Laidlaw said while it may feel to some that life is getting back to normal, “we are still in the middle of a pandemic”.

She stressed following guidance like isolating immediately if you Covid symptoms and requesting a PCR test, as well as sticking to basic measures like hand washing and face coverings.

NHS Shetland’s interim director for public health Dr Susan Laidlaw.

But Dr Laidlaw said large gatherings over the festive period could potentially wipe out workplaces if someone spreads Covid at a Christmas do.

“That can have a big effect,” she said. “So, it’s about trying to be really careful around how many people you are mixing with in what circumstances, trying to minimise spread and try and distance if you can.

“It’s perfectly legal to have parties and things, but it’s just being really mindful around the impact that it could have.”

Dr Laidlaw added that inevitably with the winter weather folk will be inside more.

“Although government guidance is to meet outside if you can, in Shetland that’s not always possible,” she said.

“If you’re going to be inside then try and have good ventilation, and try and minimise the number of people you are mixing closely with. The more people what we mix with, if somebody has Covid then the more people it’s going to spread to.”

Dr Laidlaw said Shetland is averaging about 20 Covid cases a week, and recently there has not been anyone seriously ill.

“We’re relying on the vaccination programme,” she added.

“Obviously we’ve done really well so far, we’ve vaccinated over 95 per cent of our adult population.

“But we know that there seems to be some waning of the immunity with time, so we’re now doing the booster doses and trying to work through them as quickly as we can alongside the flu.”

Dr Laidlaw, however, advised that it is “about people still being really vigilant and realising that Covid is still around – it still can spread quite easily even if people are vaccinated”.

Five new Covid cases were confirmed for Shetland today (Tuesday).

Meanwhile, in an update to the Scottish Parliament this afternoon first minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed there will be no immediate change to the mitigations in place to combat the spread of Covid-19.