ACTION is being taken to address a marked increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in Wigtownshire.
Caution is being advised over the holiday period, daily testing made available across Christmas and New Year, and all but essential visiting to care homes in Wigtownshire is being suspended with immediate effect.
An increased number of COVID cases has been identified, particularly within the Stranraer area but also in Newton Stewart and more rural communities.
Cases have been found in workplace settings, and affecting patients and staff at Galloway Community Hospital where routine in-patient visiting has already been suspended.
Interim Director of Public Health Valerie White said: “We’re continuing to identify new cases of COVID-19 across all four of the localities in the region – Annandale and Eskdale, Nithsdale, Stewartry and Wigtownshire.
“However, the current level of cases in Wigtownshire is giving particular cause for concern, and has prompted action aimed to try and limit spread and protect those most vulnerable.
“Very sadly, this means an immediate halt to visiting in care homes in Wigtownshire – with restricted essential visiting which must be agreed in advance with the care home. Restrictions on visiting had been due to come into effect from Saturday December 26, as the region moves into Level 4 along with the rest of mainland Scotland.
“This action is not taken lightly, knowing that this will be upsetting for residents and their loved ones, particularly at this time of year, but it is felt necessary in order to protect some of the most vulnerable members of our community.”
Advice is being reiterated to be cautious and to follow national directions, but also to use judgement – particularly over the Christmas and New Year period where there is an identified increased risk of infection.
In response to the situation, daily testing right across Christmas and New Year will be available via the mobile testing unit positioned in the main at Ashwood House, Sun Street, Stranraer.
The MTU will be in position between 24 and 28 December and again between 1 and 4 January. Appointments can be made from the day before by telephone (NHS24 or 111) or on the website: https://www.nhs.uk/ask-for-a-coronavirus-test
Anyone with symptoms of COVID is asked to immediately self-isolate and arrange a test.
This is encouraged not just in Wigtownshire, and in Upper Nithsdale where an increased number of cases has been identified, but right across Dumfries and Galloway.
Ms White said: “We’re heading towards a period where we’re going to be particularly vulnerable, so it’s important that everyone remains on their guard against the continued threat of COVID. It poses a real risk to health, and can majorly impact on services and businesses.
“Scotland as a whole enters Level 4 from Boxing Day, December 26, when restrictions come into effect aimed at limiting the spread of the coronavirus.
“We’ve suffered tragedies due to COVID in Dumfries and Galloway, but have not been impacted as badly as some other places. It would be terrible to falter now and lose what we’ve worked so hard to achieve, with vaccines moving us towards a position of more stability.
“I’d ask everyone to follow the FACTS guidance around wearing face coverings and hand hygiene, around physical distancing and social interaction, and crucially about immediately self-isolating and arranging a test if they experience any symptoms of the coronvirus.
“Everyone has a role to play in protecting themselves, their loved ones, friends, neighbours, colleagues and communities.”
Home testing kits are also available and come with comprehensive instructions to guide you through administering the swab yourself. These kits are delivered and collected by Amazon and Royal Mail, and they do not have access to the results or any health data.
For information, visit https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/infections-and-poisoning/coronavirus-covid-19#test-and-protect
People who work in health or social care, the Emergency Services, or Dumfries and Galloway Council and have symptoms of coronavirus (even if mild) are being asked to arrange for testing through NHS Dumfries and Galloway through the well established routes.
NOTES TO EDITORS:
Any enquiries should go to Dumfries and Galloway Health and Social Care Partnership Communication and Engagement Manager Rod Edgar, by calling 01387 241061 (internal ext 33061) or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org