A mobile Covid testing unit has been deployed to Elgin Academy as part of efforts to tackle the escalating number of cases in Moray.
The region has experienced a surge of Covid-19 infections in recent weeks and currently has the highest rate in Scotland with 79.3 cases per 100,000 people – while neighbouring Aberdeenshire is at 10 and Highland only on 11.
The unit is initially targeting pupils and teachers at Elgin Academy during school hours and will be used for members of the wider public during the weekend.
Health officials are urging everyone to take up asymptomatic testing in a bid to combat the recent spread.
Dr Jamie Hogg, clinical director at Dr Gray’s Hospital in Elgin, said: “We have seen 51 cases of Covid-19 within the school’s population – but there is no evidence of ongoing transmission in the school and we are not treating it as a single outbreak.
“It is therefore likely these individuals have picked up the virus in the community, outwith the school.
“In testing all pupils and teachers it gives us a fuller picture of who is infected in the community – we know Covid-19 is now becoming widespread across Moray.
“It is vital we get ahead of the virus, and widespread testing is our best chance to do that.
“I would really encourage people to get tested even if they haven’t displayed symptoms.”
‘Most challenging time’ in Elgin Academy’s history
Head teacher Kyle Scott has hailed the school community’s togetherness during the “most challenging time” in the academy’s history.
Mr Scott said: “As a school, our infection prevention control measures have worked and we are reassured that there has not been spread within the academy.
“It is arguably the most challenging time in the school’s history as we try to manage and live with this virus.
“This situation has brought our school community together.
“On top of the rising cases, our senior pupils are highly anxious anyway with exams.”
Anxious pupils ‘reassured’ by testing site
Meanwhile, two of the first pupils at the school to be tested were S6’s Rory Stanley and Isla Hepburn.
Isla said: “For me, it’s important to get tested and play my part in protecting my family, friends, fellow pupils, teachers and the wider population.
“We are very reassured by this new testing site at Elgin Academy.”
Rory added: “Everybody is anxious about the rising cases in Moray but the precautions such as the extra testing facility will put people more at ease.
“The teachers are doing a fantastic job during this difficult time.”
Moray’s accelerating vaccination program
NHS Grampian has announced vaccination appointments will start being given from Saturday in Moray to people between 18 and 39 who have not already been vaccinated.
Laura Sutherland, the Moray lead for the Covid-19 vaccination programme told the P&J: “We are urging people to come along to get the vaccines as it is really important to help protect the community and yourself from the virus.
“We want to remind people that they might get a call from a number they don’t recognise or withheld number so please keep your phones with you and listen to your answer machine for messages about getting a vaccine.”
Katrina Morrison, clinical lead nurse for Covid-19 vaccination programme, said: “Additional Covid-19 Pfizer vaccination stock and the concerning, uncontrolled, sustained community transmission of Covid-19 in Moray, has made this decision straightforward.
“It needs to happen quickly and our staff have been mobilised to speed up the process.
“All those aged 18 to 39 years in Moray who have not yet received their Covid-19 vaccination as part of the earlier priority cohort groups will be appointed from this Saturday.
“During the first few days, we will phone to offer appointments before moving to letter appointments from the middle of next week.
“You may not recognise the number or the number may be withheld. Check your voicemails regularly.”
The Fiona Elcock Vaccination Centre will have increased opening hours between 8am and 10pm with additional vaccination channels throughout the day.
This will not affect the existing appointments at this centre or the delivery of second doses and vaccination of those 40 to 49 years across Grampian.
NHS Grampian has also been forced to issue a clarification following claims that Lateral Flow Devices could be “fooled” using “condiments”.
The unusual advice came earlier today amid the surging Covid cases in Moray.
NHS Grampian posted on Twitter on Friday afternoon in an attempt to debunk bizarre claim that the rising Covid case numbers were due to people “fooling” the tests.
They said: “We can’t quite believe we have to say this, but here goes: rising case numbers in Moray are not the result of people ‘fooling’ Lateral Flow Devices with tomato ketchup (or any other condiment for that matter).
They continued: “A positive Lateral Flow Device test is always followed up with a PCR test to confirm the result.
“This is the gold standard of testing. 90% of the positive LFD tests in Moray have been confirmed as positive by PCR testing.
“We are seeing people requiring hospital treatment as a result of Covid-19 infection.
“We need people to #ProtectMoray, stick to the guidelines, and take up the expanded testing offer.”
They added: “To everyone in Aberdeenshire and Aberdeen City, remember this virus can go wherever it wants and certainly doesn’t respect local authority boundaries.
“Take care of yourselves, take care of your community, and let’s keep going.”
How and when to organise a Covid test
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.