FORTH VALLEY residents have shown tremendous commitment to their local health service by backing the government's measures to tackle coronavirus.

Two NHS chiefs have lauded the behaviour of all those in the region who have helped to prevent the NHS from becoming overwhelmed by staying home.

Dr Andrew Murray, NHS Forth Valley's medical director, and Dr Graham Foster, director of public health, were keen to highlight the good news before taking questions from reporters.

The duo also discussed staff testing, patient recovery figure and other key issues during a video conference on Monday, April 6.

Dr Foster said: "What's very encouraging is that people in Forth Valley do seem to be following the 'stay at home' guidance and the pressure we've seen on the NHS has been fairly stable over the past week.

"The numbers have been well within our current capacity, and I think that's a huge credit to the people in Forth Valley who are following the guidance and staying at home.

"We haven't seen the surge that [has been] seen in Italy and elsewhere."

Focusing on the number of people in the region who have tested positive for coronavirus (Covid-19), which stood at 231 as of April 6, the pair acknowledged that figure is likely well below the true number of positive cases.

So, when asked if they had any idea just how many people in the area do actually have coronavirus, Dr Foster said: "It's very difficult to put a figure on that."

The reasons for that include a lack of testing so far, and the fact that many people will recover after self-isolating at home for seven days – without undergoing testing.

But one group of people in Forth Valley who are being tested is NHS staff.

Although precise figures were not available, Dr Murray said: "More than 500 [members of NHS Forth Valley staff] have been tested, and have already gone back to work."

As well as those 500 staff, more health professionals are being recruited through collaboration with various institutions.

Dr Murray said: "We're working with universities and the General Medical Council to bring on some medical students who would have graduated in July, and they are all being identified for certain departments."

And at Forth Valley Royal Hospital itself, there have also been big changes to ensure the facility is ready for any increase in coronavirus patients in the weeks ahead.

For example, the hospital's emergency department now has a filter system for people with Covid-19 symptoms, and non-Covid-19 symptoms.

The department has also seen a big drop in the number of people being admitted there, as more people staying at home lowers the likelihood of them become injured while out or at work.

And as it stands, the hospital still has "lots of capacity", and the lack of ventilators seen in some parts of the country does not seem to be an issue in central Scotland.

Dr Foster said: "We do have enough ventilators, and we've got orders sitting waiting to be delivered as soon as we require them.

"We're in a good place from that perspective."

Dr Murray added: "We're really well prepared for what's still to come."

Turning to the question of the number of people who had passed away after contracting coronavirus in the area, Dr Foster said: "There's a reluctance to break down the number of deaths for every health board, because it can get down to identifiable numbers.

"There has been a small number of people who have unfortunately died.

"We have not seen an exponential surge – it's been a small number."

Turning to the more positive question as to why no number had yet been published informing people as to how many individuals had recovered from coronavirus, Dr Foster said: "The idea of publishing recovery numbers is something we really want to do.

"It's difficult to know where you draw the line and say someone's actually better."

But Doctor Foster added: "Of the 231 people who are confirmed, about half are currently fully recovered and the rest are in the process of recovering – minus the number of deaths."

And he encouraged people to keep in mind that "for the vast majority of people, it's a mild illness".

He also said: "We're now at that stage where a lot of people who had Covid-19 are now being discharged into the community.

"We just want to be really reassuring that these people are not an infection risk – they don't need to be treated differently."

And two weeks into the UK Government's lockdown measures announced on Monday, March 23, the pair were asked about the issue of compliance with the 'stay at home' guidance in the days, or likely weeks, ahead.

Dr Foster said: "We hope that if people see it working, they'll want to keep going.

"We do need to be honest with people and keep stressing how important it is.

"The virus doesn't know that everyone's been at home for weeks, it only knows it needs more hosts. And if we can stop there being hosts the virus can't spread – that's how we keep everybody well."