Fife health boss warns of ‘summer spike’ in COVID cases as restrictions ease
Covid-19 cases are likely to rise again in the summer as restrictions continue to be eased, according to a public health expert.
Dona Milne, NHS Fife's director of public health, believes a spike in cases will occur as Scotland moves through its roadmap to recovery, even with the vaccination programme in full swing.
She told a meeting of Fife's integrated joint board today (Friday): "We're often asked by people what we might see in the coming months as the government makes changes to restrictions, including the significant changes from Monday.
"We're likely to see a rise in cases as we move towards summer and we're ready to support services in that."
Milne's warning comes ahead of the easing of mainland Scotland restrictions to Level 3 on Monday. Pubs will be able to serve alcohol outdoors and retailers can re-open in full for the first time this year, as can gyms and leisure centres.
The number of attendees at events such as weddings and funerals will also rise from 20 to 50, and receptions and wakes can be held as well.
Ministers expect Scotland to move to Level 2 next month, permitting the reopening of some leisure attractions such as cinemas and music venues as well as socialising inside people's homes, with further moves to Levels 1 and 0 in June.
As people begin socialising again, particularly indoors, there are fears that cases will rise again.
While work continues to assess how effective vaccines are at reducing transmission as well as infection, Ms Milne has asked the public to continue adhering to preventative measures such as social distancing, ventilating indoor spaces and wearing face masks in order to contain the spread of Covid-19.
The public health boss added: "We don't yet know how good the vaccine is at preventing transmission but the findings so far are encouraging. It's important to follow the guidance of social distancing, ventilation, and wearing face coverings.
"We have symptomatic and asymptomatic testing centres across Fife and we're working with government colleagues to ensure they're in the right place."
Fife is continuing to record a downward trend in infection, recording an average of 23 cases per 100,000 people in the last seven days and a 1.1% positivity test rate. Overseas variants such as those reported in Brazil and South Africa are yet to make themselves known in Fife.
Scott Garden, NHS Fife's director of pharmacy and medicines, told the meeting that 240,000 vaccinations have been administered in the Kingdom, of which around 40,000 are second doses.
Almost all care home staff and residents have been fully inoculated, and work is ongoing to prepare four new vaccination centres for younger cohorts.
These will be inside the Carnegie Conference Centre in Dunfermline the Savoy Centre in Methil, the former Argos store in Glenrothes' Kingdom Centre and the ex-M&S store on Kirkcaldy's High Street.
Mr Garden also revealed that Fifers under 30 will be given the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine rather than the Oxford-AstraZeneca equivalent as a precaution, after evidence emerged of a one-in-100,000 (0.000095%) risk of blood clots associated with the latter jab.