Council leader John Alexander has warned that Dundee could end up back in Level 3 restrictions if coronavirus cases continue to rise.
The number of reported cases in Dundee more than doubled overnight from Tuesday to Wednesday, from 14 to 30 people.
On May 19 there were only three cases reported, meaning there has been a ten-fold rise in a week.
While Mr Alexander said he didn’t think at this point Dundee would be heading backwards into Level 3 restrictions, he was mindful that it was a possibility should the situation continue to worsen.
He said: “I don’t want to sound alarm bells and be alarmist and say that this is a disaster, but I want to make sure that people are aware of the rapid acceleration of coronavirus cases.
“People have been watching Moray and Glasgow, which are in Level 3, thinking ‘thank god that’s not us’.
“If the figures keep going the way they’re going, it will be us, in a matter of a week or two.
Above Scottish average
“You expect a bit of fluctuation but you never know where it’s going to go. If it’s accelerated that much in the space of a few days you don’t know where it’s going to end up.
“Just over a week ago, I posted about the positive position Dundee found itself in with Covid-19 case numbers being some of the lowest in Scotland.
“Fast forward to today, and our levels have increased at the fastest rate in Scotland and now sit above the Scottish average. This may – emphasis on the ‘may’ – be related to the new Indian variant.
“That will hopefully lessen as the vaccination programme proceeds and people get their two doses of the vaccine. Still, with two doses, you’re not 100% covered.”
The easing of restrictions on May 17 has “inevitably” played a big role in the increase in cases, said Mr Alexander, as businesses, schools and hospitality venues reopen, and households are allowed to mix further.
He said: “The numbers have gone up so dramatically in the space of a few days, so in terms of that acceleration, in terms of a very short period of time, that signals a bit of alarm.
Covid-19 ‘ to be around for some time to come’
“But, at the same time, I think we’re all just going to have to get used to the idea that Covid is going to be around for some time to come.
“With the increasing nature of the variations that we’re seeing across the world, it’s something that we’re going to have to continually try and tackle.
“It’s a note of caution rather than alarm bells at this point, but people need to remember that we’re still in the midst of a global pandemic.
“Right now, I don’t think going into Level 3 is on the table. My fear is, if things continue to go the wrong way, then that’s where we’ll end up.”
The Strathmartine councillor said that increased testing for all members of society was something he was keen for the public to be aware of, with PCR testing kits available through the post.
He continued: “It’s the nature of the spread that’s always concerning. If we had more than 100 cases in one workplace, that’s concerning because there are hundreds of cases, but they’re contained in one geographical area.
“Whereas, if you’ve got 100 cases spread across the whole city, there aren’t ‘hotspots’ so to speak.
“The spread is concerning because that could potentially lead to more community transmission – that’s the concern.
“We’re seeing the numbers in hospitals drop, which is great, but it doesn’t mean people don’t get ill and it doesn’t mean that any of us want to get Covid.
“We still don’t fully understand the health impacts, and there has been a lot of talk around ‘long Covid’ for example.”
Continue to follow guidance
Mr Alexander said the local authority was in daily dialogue with NHS Tayside and the Dundee Health and Social Care Partnership to monitor the situation.
He added that he would be likely to be briefed by members of the Scottish Government Cabinet, should any major changes be on the cards for the city.
He asked people to continue to follow the guidance and encourage others to do so, to use testing facilities that are available, and for teachers and pupils to use the testing kits available to them, “to nip things in the bud” and self-isolate.
‘Very concerning rise’
Dr Emma Fletcher, director of public health for NHS Tayside, asked for the public’s help in Dundee and wider Tayside to help in the fight against a rising number of positive cases of the more infectious variant of Covid-19.
Dr Fletcher said: “I am very concerned about the significant rise in the number of cases of the virus in Dundee over the last week.
“We expected a small increase in case numbers due to the easing of restrictions, but we now have the more infectious variant of the virus which was first identified in India circulating in Tayside and this is contributing to increasing infection rates.
“It is very important for every single one of us that we quickly get on top of this developing situation and slow down the spread of the virus, and we need everyone’s help to do this. We have done so well in Tayside but it’s vital that we all act now and continue to work together to drive the number of new cases back down.
“My plea to the people of Tayside and particularly in Dundee is to isolate immediately if you have any symptoms and get tested even if you don’t have any symptoms.
“Also, please get both doses of the vaccine when you are offered it to ensure you gain maximum protection against the virus.”
‘Please be cautious’
Dr Pamela Johnston, operational medical director for NHS Tayside said: “In January our hospitals and health services were very busy with sick Covid-19 patients. None of our clinical teams want to see this happen again so we have a bit of a plea.
“Please be cautious. Please keep following the rules in terms of socialising and mixing indoors and even outdoors.
“Stay two metres apart where you need to and please keep washing your hands and keep your masks on.
“If you do this, we hope that you will stay safe and well and avoid having to be admitted to hospital.”
‘May be circumstances to increase restrictions’
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We have always been clear that we remain at risk of increases in cases especially as we reopen, and as we have set out previously, there may be circumstances where we have to apply further restrictions to make sure that we contain any outbreaks.
“While we intend to take the next steps as a nation together where possible, we stand ready to deploy the revised levels at a more local level if necessary – if prevalence of the virus surges in some parts of Scotland but not others.
“Local public health clinicians and the Scottish Government continue to monitor the situation in Dundee closely and will adapt our response accordingly, if need be, to ensure that any rapid rise is addressed rapidly and decisively.
“Universal testing is now available Scotland-wide and we would particularly encourage those in Dundee, and other areas where cases are at a high level to help stop the spread by taking a test and helping find cases which otherwise may be missed. We will work with the local health board to explore enhanced testing and contact tracing if necessary.”