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Covid clear by Christmas?

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By Fiona Reid
Covid clear by Christmas?

THE boss of Dumfries and Galloway Council has predicted Scotland could nearly eradicate Covid before Christmas if new restrictions are followed.

Updating councillors on the corona situation locally and nationally, chief executive Gavin Stevenson last week said that while England faced a six month battle to keep the virus at bay, Scotland was in ‘a totally different position’.

He said: “If this action is successful and we are able to break the chain, I believe that Scotland could be heading towards the position where we nearly eradicate it before Christmas, which would be perfect for our businesses.”

He said the region is especially in a good position due to its geography and ‘excellent compliance’ by residents.

However, he is concerned about the vulnerability of the border area, citing Annan and Gretna in particular, and said: “There is the situation that it might go full lockdown in England and not Scotland because of different situations, then for Dumfries and Galloway, the border area would be incredibly difficult for us.”

Mr Stevenson described the recent rise in cases across the UK as “either the tail of the first wave or start of a second wave’, adding: “It’s very clear that the modelling from May/June indicated that we would have a second surge. It’s clearly underway.

“The key at the moment is just to break the chain before it gets into the community and the most vulnerable. It’s a very difficult balancing act.”

Figures released today (Fri) showed there has now been 370 positive tests in Dumfries and Galloway, a rise of 30 in the last week.

But the chief executive said the local rate is still relatively low at 13 cases per 100,000, compared to 73 per 100,000 in Glasgow.

However, he stressed the speed at which the virus can go and said: “The WHO says if the level of testing goes above five per cent you are in an outbreak: in Scotland it’s 7.9 per cent, higher than England at this particular point.

“Numbers are doubling, however if we were in full outbreak it would be exponential. We are not in that case so measures are beginning to work.”

A decision on a ‘circuit breaker’ short lockdown will be taken by the First Minister on October 5 and Mr Stevenson personally believes further restrictions covering the school half term would be ‘the perfect time’.

He said: “We need the cold weather coming to stop people getting out and about.

“Hopefully the population in urban centres will take heed, stop visiting and transmitting, not just house parties, it’s popping in and out.”

Although he is ‘not planning for another lockdown’, he admitted that all Dumfries and Galloway Council services have been ordered to look at how they would scale back their work if there was a quick announcement.

Mr Stevenson is also planning ahead for next year and revealed that current modelling indicates a third surge of Covid at the end of the winter, in late February and March.

He said: “We would hope a vaccine will be available but cannot be certain.

“The model indicated this surge almost to the week so there’s a good indication a third surge would come. It would be the perfect storm time for us with the EU exit and hospitals are always full in February, so we need to be planning towards that.”

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