‘We’re still in the middle of a pandemic’ – health board urges folk to remain vigilant

Health professionals are urging folk to stay vigilant in the fight against Covid-19 amid concerns that attitudes are beginning to change.

NHS Shetland has warned that cases were still circulating and causing disruption, even though most people showed only mild symptoms.

Interim director of public health Susan Laidlaw said: “Although people feel things are going back to normal and they’re able to go on holidays, have social social gathering and are going back to work, we are still in the middle of a pandemic.

“There are still plenty of Covid cases.”

Dr Laidlaw said cases across Scotland had “plateaued” to around 2,500 a day, while Shetland was still reporting around 20 a week.

She said most of the cases reported locally involved people who had travelled south or their contacts.

“That’s certainly where we see most of our new cases now,” she added.

Thanks to the vaccine, which has more than 90 per cent coverage among Shetland’s adult population, Dr Laidlaw said few people were becoming ill, other than mild cold or flu-like symptoms.

“Thankfully in Shetland, we haven’t had anyone seriously ill or needing to be in hospital or intensive care,” she said.

“But that’s still happening on the mainland; there are still people in hospital, people needing intensive care and sadly people who are dying from Covid.

“So we haven’t controlled it yet. It is still happening and the worry is this is happening on top of our usual winter pressures.

Dr Laidlaw said that although people were not becoming seriously ill, there was still a great deal of disruption caused by people having to self-isolate for 10 days.

She said it was particularly disruptive to small businesses and organisations.

And although vaccine uptake in Shetland has been among the highest in Scotland, Dr Laidlaw warned there was evidence its effectiveness began to wane over time.

She said the ongoing booster programme, which has been rolled out alongisde the flu vaccine, was hoped to address that.

Already, most care home residents have been offered the vaccine.

The over 70s and clinically vulnerable will be next in line.

“The hope is that by doing that this will give added protection going forward and that it means there will be even fewer people who are unwell or need hospitalisation,” Dr Laidlaw said. 

“We want to reduce that to the absolute minimum and at the same time try to reduce the spread.

“So that’s sill ongoing and its going to be a few more months work to do that.”

Dr Laidlaw said the main message remained the same – anyone with Covid symptoms must isolate and take a test immediately.

“People still aren’t always following that really basic guidance, so if we can get people doing that it would be really helpful,” she added.

Dr Laidlaw said: “We know it’s really tough, please be patient, please keep going, we will get through the vaccination campaign as quickly as we can.

“Everybody will get called if they’re eligible but we just need a bit of patience around that because it is a really complex programme.”

She also reminded people to be mindful over Christmas, particularly around mixing with other people.

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