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Coronavirus / Drop in Covid numbers down to less PCR tests

LOWER Shetland Covid case numbers in recent days is the result of less people undertaking PCR tests due to a change in national guidance, a NHS Shetland meeting has heard.

Eight cases were included in Monday’s (10 January) Public Health Scotland statistics, which was a sharp drop from recent days.

But with people no longer having to take PCR tests following a positive lateral flow result, NHS Shetland public health principal Elizabeth Robinson said this is lowering official numbers.

People are asked to log any positive lateral flow tests – as well as negatives – and this was highlighted at a meeting of the health board on Tuesday.

Robinson said this was “absolutely essential” as this kicks off the contact tracing process if positive.

There has been an average of 25 new cases a day in Shetland over the past week as the Omicron variant spreads.

There was also a reminder that anyone with Covid symptoms still needs to isolate and request a PCR test, which is more sensitive than a lateral flow.

Chief nurse Amanda McDermott said people had perhaps been “lulled into a false sense of security” around lateral flow tests in this regard.

Board member Colin Campbell also asked how accurate daily figures will now be if less people are doing PCRs after the change in guidance.

Robinson said it was more a matter for the Scottish Government and Public Health Scotland as to whether the reporting of numbers would change.

Chief executive Michael Dickson highlighted that the daily numbers are no longer the “biggest show in town” – with figures such as hospital admissions more important.

The health board has meanwhile confirmed to Shetland News that over the last four weeks less than five patients with Covid have been admitted to the Gilbert Bain Hospital. More accurate figures are not available due to patient confidentiality.

Dickson also praised Shetland when it comes to people doing the right thing for their community, such as in logging positive results.