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Coronavirus / Spike in Covid cases not having impact on hospital admissions at present

But due to national modelling it could be a few more weeks until ‘we know that it [the Omicron variant] genuinely is milder’, public health official says

Lerwick's Gilbert Bain Hospital. Photo: Shetland News

THE SURGE in Covid cases in Shetland has yet to have an impact on hospital admissions – with most people having mild symptoms or none at all.

More than 200 cases have been confirmed locally in the last fortnight as the more spreadable Omicron variant takes hold.

But NHS Shetland’s interim public health director Dr Susan Laidlaw said most people are having cold-like symptoms – or none at all.

First minister Nicola Sturgeon previously said studies suggest the risk of hospitalisation from Omicron is lower than other strains of the virus.

While there has been no real effect on the Gilbert Bain Hospital, Dr Laidlaw did say however that national modelling suggests admissions may only be impacted in the next couple of weeks.

“There are some people who are reporting being more unwell and more what you’d describe as a flu-like illness, but equally there are people who have got that [these symptoms] who are testing negative on PCRs, so there’s something else going around as well,” she told a media briefing on Wednesday.

“But generally, it’s a very mild illness or no symptoms at all, and it’s not impacting on the hospital at present.

“But we know nationally that the modelling shows that we wouldn’t necessarily expect an impact on admissions until maybe the next couple of weeks, so although it’s been fine from that point of view so far, and the biggest impact has been around staff having to isolate, there’s still a few more weeks to go before we know that it genuinely is milder and is not increasing hospitalisations.”

She confirmed that there have been a few overnight admissions to hospital, but no-one has been seriously unwell.

Sometimes people come in for other reasons, and it has picked up that they have Covid, or they have come in for a very short time.

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“But if we have two or three people who are needing intensive care, or even needing a lengthy in-patient stay in isolation, that’s a big impact for us,” Dr Laidlaw continued.

The public health official highlighted that the hospital is always busy in winter regardless.

“They’re certainly working hard in the hospital still,” she said.

Dr Laidlaw added that it “certainly does seem to be that the booster dose does protect against ending up in hospital or being severely unwell”.

There is the hope that the high vaccination rate in Shetland will help to protect the community.

Meanwhile there are no particular geographic clusters of Covid cases in the recent surge, with the virus widespread across Shetland.

Clusters are generally being seen among households or families/gatherings.

“It’s tended to be within families or friends groupings rather than at any particular event or premises,” Dr Laidlaw said.

“Geographically I think it’s just spread across most of Shetland.”

With schools returning today (Thursday) there will inevitably be an impact, Dr Laidlaw said, such as teaching staff or children possibly being off.

She said at the moment there are hundreds of people in Shetland in isolation due to either testing positive for Covid or being contact traced.

But from today if a triple vaccinated person is traced as a contact, they will now have to take a lateral flow test each day for week instead of isolating and waiting on a PCR result – only if their LFTs are negative.

The minimum time for someone who tests positive has also reduced from 10 days to a week, but that is only if the person returns two negative lateral flows on day six and seven and does not have a fever.

More information on the new changes, which also includes people no longer requiring a PCR test if they have a positive lateral flow, can be found on the Scottish Government website.

Dr Laidlaw stressed that the guidance around people needing to isolate and having a PCR test if they have Covid symptoms has not changed.

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