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OPINION: Covid-19 restrictions are difficult but also essential as cases of coronavirus rise in the Highlands

By Ali Morrison

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Dr Tim Allison.
Dr Tim Allison.

By Dr Tim Allison, NHS Highland director of public health and policy

The Covid pandemic has forced many changes.

Our lives are likely to be different now from what they were even just before Christmas.

We have level four restrictions in place across mainland Scotland and when combined with the weather, this will make us all feel far more confined.

It is hard to be prevented from meeting friends and family, hard to have children being home-schooled and especially hard for those who have found money particularly short because of Covid.

The restrictions are hard, but they are also essential.

In the Inverness area we have seen a steep rise in people testing positive for Covid. Communities around the inner Moray Firth have experienced far more cases than we have seen before. This rise in cases has also been seen in other parts of Scotland.

There will be no single cause behind the surge in cases, but a combination of social gathering and the new variant of the virus will have been major factors.

We are seeing more times when whole families are being affected by the virus rather than just one or two family members, indicating a virus that is spreading more easily.

There are still positive signs and reasons to be optimistic.

The vaccination programme began in December and now a vaccine is being given in general practice. GPs have a great track record in delivering influenza vaccine and will be able to repeat this with Covid vaccine.

The vaccination programme has started with the most vulnerable and most at risk. GPs are beginning by vaccinating people aged over 80 and will then move to other younger groups.

Dr Jonathan Whiteside, clinical lead for critical care with NHS Highland, was the first person to be vaccinated in the NHS Highland area.
Dr Jonathan Whiteside, clinical lead for critical care with NHS Highland, was the first person to be vaccinated in the NHS Highland area.

The vaccine is safe and effective, and I would encourage you to get vaccinated when you are offered it by your GP.

Full vaccination coverage will take time to achieve.

We know the vaccine is good at preventing someone getting severe disease, but we don’t yet know how good it is at stopping the spread of the virus in the community.

So, it is vital that we all continue to play our part in protecting ourselves and others from Covid.

As well as following the level four restrictions and staying at home where we can, it is really important to stick with the tried and tested guidance like FACTS – we need to use face coverings, avoid crowded places, clean hands, keep a two-metre distance and if ill self-isolate and get tested.

We all have a responsibility to ourselves, our families and our communities to stop Covid spreading. We need to think about what we can do to stop the virus not what we can do to stretch the rules. A quick indoor visit to a neighbour could be a quick way to spread Covid.

If we do all play our part then Covid rates will drop, vaccination will be easier, restrictions will be lifted more quickly, and we will all help relieve the severe pressure that Covid puts on the NHS and social care.

Only then will we really see things coming back to normal.

Related story: What's Covid infection rate like where you live?

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