HEALTH chiefs have urged Forth Valley residents to follow the rules around social distancing and self-isolating as the area deals with a spike in coronavirus cases and hospital admissions.

Dr Andrew Murray, NHS Forth Valley’s medical director, and Dr Graham Foster, director of public health, said compliance needs to improve to stop Covid-19 from spreading.

Speaking to the Advertiser and other newspapers at a media briefing on Monday, November 2, they also provided a general update about the situation locally.

Both agreed that Forth Valley and Scotland more generally was in the midst of a second wave.

Dr Murray said the past two or three weeks in particular “have really showed that second wave” in full force.

The cause of that wave was linked to travel – internationally and across the United Kingdom – which scuppered efforts earlier in the year to get rid of the virus domestically.

Indeed, Dr Foster said that a few months ago, “we did really really well, almost eliminating the virus” in Scotland.

At that point, he said we “could have done what New Zealand has done” and implemented strict travel and border controls.

However, that did not happen, and he said: “After that, we took a lot of restrictions off and allowed people to travel, and coronavirus came back into Scotland from all sorts of different places.

“Lots of people brought it back from other places.”

That has, in part, led to the current situation, where people are facing high levels of case numbers and hospital admissions in Forth Valley and elsewhere.

During October the number of people in hospital in Forth Valley with a confirmed case of Covid-19 rose from five, to 46.

In intensive care, the numbers went up from less than five to 12, and cases routinely increased by around 30 per day.

In a bid to curb those rising case numbers and hospital numbers, Dr Murray and Dr Foster outlined the importance of sticking with government guidance during the media briefing.

Dr Murray acknowledged that some people are “struggling to comply with all the basic requirements”, but stressed they remain vital.

Dr Foster then said: “The most important thing is to stay two metres apart.”

Importantly, he said that rule applies regardless of whether someone is wearing a face covering or not.

He also said: “If you do have symptoms, and you have a reason to get a test, stay at home and self-isolate until you get the results.”

A recurring problem being picked up by test and protect teams is that people are mixing with others while waiting for their test results.

Outlining how foolish that is, Dr Foster said: “Right now, if you’re having a test, there’s quite a high chance you will be Covid positive.”

And he said: “We need people to travel less, so if you can reduce your travel then please do.”

Dr Foster then went on to highlight the increased risk of catching coronavirus while indoors.

Noting the feedback from test and protect teams about how the virus has been spreading, he said: “It’s all indoors; it’s hospitality and social gatherings indoors - that’s the problem.”

Both experts then touched upon the situation in Clackmannanshire - which NHS Forth Valley recently identified as an area of concern given the rise in positive cases there.

Last Friday, Dr Foster said: “The recent increase in Covid-19 cases is very concerning and we are seeing increasingly levels of household and community transmission across the Clackmannanshire area.

“This is also affecting many local schools and businesses.”

At the briefing, Dr Foster said: “We would encourage the population there to take the situationquite seriously.”

As well as sticking to the general advice around social distancing and self-isolating, he and Dr Murray urged people in Clacks and elsewhere to study and follow the Scottish Government’s tiered restriction system.

That system came into force on Monday, November 2, and is based on the level of protection each Scottish local authority needs.

Outlining how important it is to follow all the measures, Dr Foster said: “There’s Covid-19 in a lot of communities in Forth Valley.

“It’s there, it’s real, and it’s only spreading because people carrying it mix with others and give it bridges [to jump from person to person].”

He said the general guidance around social distancing and self-isolating, as well as the new local restrictions, are all “an attempt to get people to reduce those bridges”.