The north-east infection rate for Covid-19 is now lower than the national average – but health bosses today urged people to keep their distance.
Coronavirus in the region is on a “positive downward trend”, and the total number of cases and hospital admissions in the area is generally falling, NHS Grampian revealed.
However, people have been urged to do all they can to stay safe and prevent the spread further.
In the region, the R rate is currently 0.68, compared with between 0.7 and 0.9 in Scotland as a whole.
In England it has risen to between 0.7 and one.
The number needs to remain below one to avoid the spread of the virus.
Jillian Evans, head of health intelligence at NHS Grampian, said the latest statistics paint a positive picture for the north-east.
She said: “We’re within the average, maybe just ever so slightly less. In Grampian, we have fared pretty well. It started okay and it got a little worse, then really it’s gone back to its original position.
“We’ve fared quite well and I would definitely be putting that down to our geography and environment, as there’s quite a lot of rurality.
“We are at 0.68 in Grampian, and Scotland it’s between 0.7 and 0.9. It’s really positive.
“The pre-lockdown rate was 2.4. If the rate was still at pre-lockdown, we wouldn’t be able to cope. It would be around 4,000 people in hospital.”
The number of patients in hospital has remained relatively consistent in the past week, with around 60 patients currently in hospital.
On Thursday, there were 66 patients, 64 on Wednesday and Tuesday and 69 on Monday.
Analytics released this week by Google show the changes in people’s activity.
The number of visits to parks has gone up by 67% on the baseline figure, and 22% visits to places of residence.
Jillian added: “We’d be aiming not to have anyone in hospital, we’re looking for no new hospital admissions.
“We did get a small increase over the last seven to 10 days, which we didn’t expect, but they weren’t related.
“If you look at the Google analytics, people have been slowly increasing their activities over the past month. You’d expect to see this continue as people are getting out and about with lockdown easing.
“We’ve come so, so far, I do think that wearing face coverings will help. It’s just people doing their civic duty.
“We hope we can continue decreasing, if everyone keeps their distance and wears a face covering. It’s quite straightforward.
“If we want to be out and about again we’ve just got to keep at it.”
North-east politicians have welcomed the drop in the region’s coronavirus infection.
Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald said it reflected the hardwork that has been taking place in NHS Grampian.
He said: “It is good to see infection rates in Grampian coming down again. There were fewer cases here per head of population than in much of Scotland in the early weeks of the lockdown, the infection rate then increased, but clearly the work done to contain the pandemic in the north-east is beginning to pay off.
“That is a tribute to good leadership in health and care services in the region, and to the willingness of so many people to heed the advice on how to stay safe.”
Aberdeen Central MSP Kevin Stewart said the rates were “encouraging” but said there cannot be any let up if the numbers were to continue to tumble.
He said: “It’s obviously encouraging to see these figures for the north-east and it shows that folk have been following lockdown regulations well – but we cannot get complacent.
“By continuing to comply with restrictions now, we will ensure that as we come out of lockdown we will do so in a way that minimises harm.”
Conservative MSP Peter Chapman also hailed the figure for the north-east but warned they could not be complacent.
He said: “I am absolutely delighted with the north-east’s R rate coming down below 0.7.
“Some of that must be down to the patience and compliance people have had with lockdown restrictions, in general.
“I know it has been very difficult, and how terrible it can be to live in self-isolation.
“But we cannot be complacent and the Scottish government has to deliver its promises to test, trace and isolate new cases as they appear.”