Forth Valley director of public health warns Covid is still killing local people

Forth Valley’s director of public health has said they will need to watch and wait to see how the coronavirus pandemic evolves, as he warned “we are still losing people”.

Friday, 30th July 2021, 6:00 am
Stock photo by John Devlin.

In an update to members of NHS Forth Valley board on Tuesday, Dr Graham Foster stressed that things were moving quickly, and said uncertainty over future cases meant now was a time to watch and wait to see the direction the coronavirus takes.

“We are still losing people and its something we take very seriously, but it does show that the vaccine is working,” said Dr Foster.

“Many vaccinated patients do get mild to moderate symptoms and it does appear that vaccinated people can still transmit the virus, so the vaccine is not a magic bullet that stops transmission.”

Dr Foster said there continued to be a huge amount of work to control outbreaks and the test and protect team was “incredibly busy”.

“We are seeing signs now that that has worked and from the first week in July onwards we are seeing decreasing rates again which is really positive.”

“It’s been hard won, but I’m pleased to see that success,” he said.

Currently less than a third of Covid-19 positive in patients are actually in hospital due to Covid, the director said.

He explained that not all patients testing positive in hospital are symptomatic and many have actually been admitted for non-Covid reasons, with Covid-19 only detected when they were screened for entry.

However, the presence of the virus is still causing lots of pressure on the health service which has become very busy as things have started to open up.

“It’s been an incredibly busy summer for the hospital,” he said.

“The demand – particularly in A&E but across all departments – is now incredibly high as the country opens up and more people return to more normal activities.

He added: “There are all sorts of pressures: the combined effects of a pandemic that has now been running for 18 months; increasing numbers of staff with long-term absence; staff who are off with stress-related conditions; individuals who are tired because they are not getting holidays.”

“There is a whole range of pressures that are combining to make life difficult for all of the health and social care sector.”

Dr Foster said that Forth Valley continued to have a very high rate of testing and this was ongoing.

He praised the work of the test and protect team, although he said staffing there was also proving a challenge as people are returning to their own jobs as things open up.

The key word at the moment, however, is “uncertainty”, the director said as they watch and wait to see the effects of restrictions lifting across the UK.

He said: “It’s very difficult to tell with the large scale opening against a background of a vaccinated population.

“Plus it’s the summer so more people are outside and there’s more ventilation but more people are using public transport and going back to the office.

“It’s really very difficult even for the expert modellers to tell us whether things are going to keep getting better.

“It really is an uncertain time and we are all just waiting to see.”