Public health chief for Highland flags coronavirus threat at Christmas time to public amid rise in cases amongst young people
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What’s new with Covid? There are some new things happening which bring both words of caution but also a possibility of some optimism.
The number of Covid cases remains stubbornly high across Scotland and especially in some areas that have seen lower numbers of infections in the past.
People of all ages have been affected and there continue to be serious consequences from Covid illness, but fewer people are becoming seriously ill.
Younger people are getting a greater proportion of the infections, and this is especially true for children at primary school. Covid can infect the majority of children in a year group and several schools have needed to close.
The risk of serious illness from Covid among children is low, but why are so many children being diagnosed with the virus? There will be several reasons for this.
Primary school children are not routinely offered vaccination and as the weather changes, they will be having more close contact with others indoors at home or school; they may also have close contact on school transport. Whatever the causes for infections in primary schools, the high rates of infection do demonstrate the continuing potential there is for Covid to spread rapidly.
Given the large number of cases and persistence of the virus we should be cautious when we think about Christmas.
We will all want to relax over the festive period and try to put the past behind us, but sadly it is likely to be too soon to let our guard down. Last year we saw an upsurge in Covid infections as the arrival of a new variant coincided with greater social mixing indoors.
Again, this year we are likely to want to forget about Covid, but the number of cases is much higher than a year ago and we can’t afford to put Covid in the past.
I am not suggesting that we should dismiss Christmas like a public health Scrooge, but I am suggesting that we should stop and think about what we are doing.
Can we do things at Christmas in a way that reduces the chances of spreading Covid?
What would happen if someone in our group out celebrating was found to have Covid? Would everyone in the group have to isolate? What would the effect be on our work or our family?
If we can think about Covid when we plan our festivities – whether work parties or seeing friends and family – then we are less likely to come down with an uncomfortable bump being notified that we are a contact or find that we have Covid symptoms. We can relax, enjoy ourselves and stay safe from Covid, if we think about it first.
Dr Tim Allison is NHS Highland’s director of public health and policy.