Travel restrictions could be imposed in Moray next week if the region remains at Level 3 Covid restrictions.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said it is “highly probable” the region will be left behind the rest of the country in the next step of lockdown easing.
A final decision has been delayed until the end of the week with hopes that if case numbers drop significantly a delay can be avoided.
Huge numbers of locals have been vaccinated in recent days with opening hours at the Elgin centre being extended to 10pm to accommodate the accelerated rollout.
Queues of up to 50 people at a time have been seen outside the Fiona Elcock Centre waiting for walk-up appointments while NHS Grampian reports “enormous interest”.
Hopes Level 2 will come to Moray soon
If Moray is held at Level 3, travel restrictions will be imposed preventing people moving in or out of the region – except for specific purposes.
Ms Sturgeon said: “If Moray stays at Level 3 then it will be necessary to reimpose travel restrictions to prevent travel in or out of the area, except for limited purposes, and hopefully only for a short period.
“If the decision to keep Moray at Level 3 is confirmed we will provide additional financial assistance to businesses affected.
“I know it would be deeply unwelcome for people in Moray but hopefully any extension to Level 3 will be for as short a period as possible.”
The latest Scottish Government figures show Moray is recording Covid cases at a rate of 94 per 100,000 people – more than four times the national average and significantly higher than the 8.42 in Aberdeenshire and 7.63 in the Highlands.
However, hopes have been raised that the increase is beginning to slow following extra measures being deployed to the region – including extra testing units and an accelerated vaccine programme.
And chief medical officer Dr Gregor Smith has ruled out tightening restrictions further to Level 4 as “disproportionate” at the moment.
Rising cases already putting visitors off
Increased Covid cases in Moray have already led to potential visitors going elsewhere to seek greater freedoms away from Level 3.
Moray Council chief executive Roddy Burns said: “We’ve already heard from businesses and the tourism sector in Moray that they’re seeing the impact of us having such high Covid case numbers compared to the rest of Scotland – we owe it to them, and our NHS colleagues, to take responsibility for our own actions and do as we’re asked.
“Community transmission means we all have the power to stop the spread, we need to step up and accept the responsibility that goes along with it.”
Chris Littlejohn, NHS Grampian’s deputy director of public health, said: “If the community continues to do the right things, Level 2 won’t be far away.
“We are pleased to say there has been enormous interest in the accelerated vaccination programme for Moray – we would ask people to be patient with us and, wherever possible, make every effort to attend the appointment made for them.”
Covid cases detected at RAF Lossiemouth
Cases of coronavirus have continued to be reported in the region amid the recent announcement.
RAF Lossiemouth has confirmed a “small number” of positive tests among personnel, who are offered twice-weekly tests to limit the spread.
A base spokeswoman said: “Swift isolation of any lateral flow positive cases together with the localised tracing of close contacts in advance of formal Trace and Protect activities has meant there has been no impact on operational activities and we remain ready to secure the skies and protect the seas 24/7.
Testing sites are operational in:
Days and times in the link below. And remember – you can still order lateral flow tests online for delivery to your door.https://t.co/PYnxdItUzK
— Moray Council (@MorayCouncil) May 11, 2021
“Our visiting German colleagues are fully compliant with Scottish Government regulations on international travel. They are participating in regular asymptomatic testing whilst working from RAF Lossiemouth and noting the surge in local cases in Moray, are working hard to ensure they minimise all contact with the local community.”
Meanwhile, Moray Council has opened new rapid testing sites in Elgin, Lossiemouth, Lhanbryde, Buckie, Keith, Forres and Aberlour to drive down case numbers.
Fears have been raised some residents in the region have been spreading the virus without knowing.
It is hoped earlier detecting of the cases will help get the outbreak under control.
Karen Sievewright, Moray Council’s environmental health and trading standards manager, said: “Almost one in three people with coronavirus don’t have symptoms but are still infectious and able to pass the virus on to loved ones, friends and the wider community.
“By getting tested at a community testing site, you can find out if you are positive and take immediate action to stop the spread of the virus by self-isolating.”
When should I get tested?
Those with any of the symptoms listed below should book a test, via nhsinform.scot or call 0800 028 2816 if you cannot get online, and must not attend sites asymptomatic testing sites.
Those with both classic and extended symptoms in Moray should immediately book a test via nhsinform.scot or call 0800 028 2816 if you cannot get online.
Extended symptoms include:
- General weakness
- Sore throat
- Shortness of breath
- Muscle pain
- Runny nose
- Dry or productive cough
The individual and their whole household, including any extended or bubble members, should self-isolate immediately self-isolate until the test results are returned.
A timetable of when asymptomatic testing is available at locations across Moray can be found here.