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DR TIM ALLISON: We’ve seen this before – summer lull then new waves – and people are still testing positive for Covid-19 in the Highlands


By Dr Tim Allison

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People are still testing positive for Covid-19 in the Inverness area.
People are still testing positive for Covid-19 in the Inverness area.

What now for Covid? Are we saying good riddance to the disease and getting on with the rest of our lives?

After all, we have many other things to worry about with rising prices and energy bills and the war in Ukraine.

I am not sure what the modern equivalent is of a broken record, but at the risk of being like that I still need to say that Covid has not gone away.

Testing for Covid has stopped for most people, although continued testing within places such as care homes and hospitals shows that cases are still appearing, and we do continue to hear of people in the public eye needing to isolate because of a positive Covid test. We can’t use the number of positive tests anymore to give an accurate picture of how much Covid is in the community since testing has reduced so much, but there are other ways that we can find out the information.

There is a survey run by the Office for National Statistics across the UK based on Covid testing; it shows that while Covid rates have declined very considerably, the rates in Scotland are still relatively high compared with the rest of the UK.

There is also work that looks at the presence of the Covid virus in sewage. This does not give a comprehensive picture across Scotland, but it confirms the reduction in the level of virus.

'Perhaps one legacy of the Covid pandemic will be a better appreciation of infections and a better ability for us all to keep them at bay.'

The lower levels of Covid locally are reflected in the reduction in the wearing of face coverings, but other countries are continuing with many precautions and there are new variants of Covid in parts of the world which could lead to new waves of infection.

We should continue to work to reduce the risk of Covid now, but what we can also do is look to the future. We have seen declines in Covid cases over the summer before and these were followed by new waves.

We should also remember the risk of other infections especially influenza. Flu numbers have been low in recent winters owing to factors including the precautions taken against Covid and the reduction in widespread foreign travel which can spread the infection more quickly.

We can’t be sure when the next big wave of flu will reach us, whether this winter or in future years. However, we can be ready with the precautions which are similar for Covid, such as staying at home when we are ill, maintaining good hand washing and use of tissues and good respiratory hygiene for coughing and sneezing.

Perhaps one legacy of the Covid pandemic will be a better appreciation of infections and a better ability for us all to keep them at bay.

• Dr Tim Allison is NHS Highland’s director of public health and policy.


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