Moving East Renfrewshire back up to Level 3 of coronavirus restrictions could help get the surge in cases under control quicker despite being “painful” for the community, a public health expert has said.
The area has now overtaken Glasgow as Scotland’s Covid hotspot as case rates rocket, though it remains in Level 2 while the city is in Level 3.
The Scottish Government is expected to announce later on Friday whether there will be any changes to the current restrictions and what it will mean for East Renfrewshire and Glasgow, and also Moray which is the only other area currently in Level 3.
Professor Devi Sridhar, of the University of Edinburgh, said while it is a tough trade-off, bringing in restrictions sooner rather than later could mean they do not have to drag on into the summer.
She told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “East Renfrewshire, I’m not sure what will be decided, I think we should remember that it’s data that should be driving this, not dates.
“While it is painful to move backwards we’ve seen for example in Moray that actually that early action in holding it brought the numbers down so it can be released earlier.
“We’ve learned throughout this in every country is you move early, you move hard, you move fast and then once you have the problem under control and you get those numbers down you can release quicker.
“The thing I would say to the people who are living there is that actually in some ways the crisis and the problem that you’re facing in your community might be over faster, go in earlier and harder and you can see the light in a week or two weeks getting out of this.
“Whereas if they delay action for a week or two it might be that you’re stuck in this for a month going into the summer.
“That’s the really tough trade-off for leaderships and political decision-making which I don’t envy at all, it’s when is that tipping point when you say actually we need to move early – even when it feels too early that’s probably when you need to be moving.”
The rate of cases in East Renfrewshire, which shares a council border with Glasgow, rose to 118.3 per 100,000 people in the seven days to May 17, while in the city itself was 112.1.
Case rates in Moray, which was previously Scotland’s Covid hotspot, fell to 36.5 per 100,000 people over the same period.
Prof Sridhar, chair of Global Public Health and director of the Global Health Governance Programme at the university, also said the biggest risk to progress is a new variant coming in from abroad.
She said the world is seeing a “model of two pandemics”, where richer countries with vaccines are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel but that case numbers and the deaths are getting out of control in other areas around the globe which cannot access the jabs.
Prof Sridhar warned this might have implications for everyone, saying: “The more the virus spreads the more chance it has to mutate, and when it mutates new variants are created and eventually one of those variants will have a selective advantage, whether it’s to be more transmissible, or to be more severe or to evade immunity.
“And once that takes off, because we’re in such an interconnected world, unless you seal off completely like New Zealand, if you have some traffic in or out you’re going to see that variant appear at your doorstep and it could put back all the progress you’ve made.
“So I think right now in Scotland the biggest risk to us progressing is a new variant coming in, and that’s why we need to be paying attention more to what’s happening outside of Scotland than what’s happening inside now.”