NHS Lothian has issued advice to everyone to stick with the measures to ensure that they stay Covid safe.

The Director of Public Health and Health Policy at NHS Lothian, Dona Milne, explained that while fewer people were becoming seriously ill with Covid-19 it is still important to use safety precautions. The number of people becoming ill in Lothian has risen to the same levels as those during the last lockdown. The difference is that we now have vaccines.

Everyone is advised to remember face masks, hand washing, social distancing, vaccination and community testing which are all vital in the country’s actions against the virus.

Dona said: “The last time our numbers of infections were so high was in January when we were all living under stay at home restrictions as part of the national lockdown.  Covid hasn’t gone away and can still cause serious illness. It is critical we remember that.

“Thankfully fewer people are becoming seriously unwell – but that is only down to the success of the vaccination programme. It is not because of a reduction in the threat that COVID-19 poses to us all.

“We know that 1 in 3 people who have Covid do not show symptoms of the virus but can still transmit it, so we should all be testing ourselves twice a week to keep ourselves, family and communities safe. 

“Those test results help us to target an area before the virus really takes hold, causing a surge in cases. The earlier a trend is identified, the more effective the measures, such as increased vaccination, will be. In turn, this will then help to reduce the chances of more region-wide or national restrictions.”

At the moment, around 203 per 100,000 people in Lothian are testing positive for the virus, with around 200 new cases every day of mostly younger adults and school aged children. 

Dona added: “As the restrictions begin to ease and the list of things we can do begins to increase, it’s tempting to think that it’s safe. The virus is still around us and it doesn’t mean that these things can be done without face masks, handwashing and social distancing. We cannot afford to return to normal just because we want it so badly. Lives may depend on it.

“We know that the weather is better and people want to get together and mix with friends, especially outdoors. As our worlds open up these things are allowed, and as we know outside is always safer, but we still need to think about maintaining our distance and wearing face masks when we can’t. 

“The problem is that people are dropping their guard when they are inside and out and especially if alcohol is involved. If you are indoors, you must keep numbers to a minimum and ensure good ventilation.”

Over the last three weeks, the specialist health protection team in Lothian has dealt with scores of separate situations in a number of settings such as hospitality events, weddings, workplaces, a beach party and schools.

There were more than 5549 positive cases, which generated more than 20,861 contacts.

Fortunately, the number of people testing positive are not having such a serious impact on the NHS because so many people over the age of 40 are either fully vaccinated or about to undergo their second dose.

However, Dona urged people not to give in and to stick with the restrictions for a bit longer to give the vaccination programme more time to vaccinate more people and provide vital protection for younger adults.

So far, a total of 974,843 doses of the vaccine have been administered in clinics across NHS Lothian and the vaccination programme is working as fast as the vaccine supply allows. Drop-in clinics for the over 40s have also been launched at all the of the mass vaccination sites, except Lowland, to provide a first or second jab and more protection to as many people as possible.

Dona added: “It would be unthinkable to have come this far and to throw away all of our good work now. We must continue to live within the restrictions for a bit longer to give us a little more time to vaccinate more people and give them the protection they need. 

“Everyone living and working in Lothian has done really well so far and I would thank them for all of their efforts so far. I would ask everyone just to stick with it for a bit longer. Please continue to follow the safety precautions, keep your vaccination appointment, maintain regular testing and self-isolate if required.”