Indoor care home visits have been cancelled across Tayside after the number of coronavirus cases linked to the 2 Sisters factory in Coupar Angus reached 110.
Relatives were due to be allowed to visit care home residents inside for the first time in months from Monday, however the outbreak at the Perthshire food processing plant has forced a rethink.
Ninety-six factory workers and 14 community contacts have now tested positive for the virus – a jump of 20 confirmed cases in 24 hours.
The Incident Management Team (IMT) dealing with the crisis announced the decision on care homes through NHS Tayside on Sunday evening.
Dr Emma Fletcher, associate director of public health, said: “Tayside remains in a heightened state of vigilance and the IMT today (Sunday) considered indoor visiting in care homes as part of its business, as this was due to be reintroduced at a number of care homes across the area from tomorrow (Monday).
“The NHS Tayside Health Protection Team and colleagues in the three Health and Social Care Partnerships in Angus, Dundee and Perth and Kinross, together with other partner agencies, determined that the reintroduction of indoor visiting should not go ahead in Tayside at this time due to the ongoing situation at the factory and a number of other clusters and positive cases.
“We know that this will cause a level of anxiety and disappointment amongst care home residents and their loved ones, however, we must ensure that we do everything we can to protect care home residents, staff and their families as we continue to address the challenges that Covid-19 presents.”
The health board official added that the decision would be kept under close review and indoor care home visits would be reintroduced when it is deemed safe to do so.
Indoor visiting for end-of-life care or to support a resident’s wellbeing at times of distress can continue, as long as all infection prevention and control measures are in place and outdoor visiting can also continue.
The latest figures come as Perth and Kinross reported 26 new cases across the region on Sunday, the highest number of positive tests throughout any local authority in Scotland.
The number was more than triple that of Dundee and Glasgow, which recorded the next highest level of new cases with eight each. Fife and Angus recorded five and three new cases respectively.
Depute First Minister John Swinney urged everyone to exercise “great caution” in the wake of the outbreak.
The Perthshire North SNP MSP said: “The Covid outbreak at the 2 Sisters plant in Coupar Angus has been very serious and has prompted a very worrying period for the workforce and the local community.
“Over the last week, a huge effort has been mobilised to test all of the staff at the plant and also any individuals with concerns in the local community.
“The positive cases have had their contacts traced and that work has been painstaking and comprehensive. This should give us all reassurance.
“Given the severity of the outbreak, it is vital that everyone follows the advice given.
“All workers and their households – including children – must isolate until 31 August. This is critical to stop the spread of the virus.”