HALF of Forth Valley care homes have been unscathed by the coronavirus outbreak, health officials have said.

Efforts to screen patients and to "stop the virus coming through the front door" have been largely successful.

However, and it's vital those care homes continue to prevent Covid–19 from entering their buildings, because once inside, it becomes difficult to stop it spreading.

That was the message from Dr Graham Foster, NHS Forth Valley's director of public health, during a video conference with journalists on Wednesday, May 6.

He was joined by Dr Andrew Murray, the health board's medical director.

The video conference took place the same day figures from National Records of Scotland showed 59 per cent of deaths linked to coronavirus in Scotland, between April 26 and May 3, occurred in care homes.

And so the pair spoke about the current situation facing care facilities in Forth Valley, and the work being done by the local health board to support them.

Dr Foster said: "We have always been clear that for eight out of 10 people, this virus is usually quite mild.

"But for two out of 10 people, mainly the elderly and people with underlying health conditions, this is really serious.

"When you get to care homes, that's where the vulnerable are.

"We're doing a lot to try and keep care homes safe, and we were already working to stop outbreaks in care homes

"The most important thing care homes can do is try and stop the virus coming through the front door.

"When the virus gets through the door, it becomes very difficult to stop the spread."

So far, NHS Forth Valley has already carried out initial assessments of all 66 care homes in the area, to ensure staff are aware of infection control procedures and the safe use of personal protective equipment (PPE).

In the past week, all of those care homes were also provided with one week's worth of PPE – whether they asked for it or not – so they have some in reserve.

NHS Forth Valley also holds a daily care home meeting, to identify and address any emerging issues or concerns.

And, as the Advertiser previously reported, 'roving care home testing teams' were introduced last month to test care home staff and residents.

The aim of all that work in support of care homes, according to Dr Foster, is to "keep people safe and save lives".

Turning to the situation in the wider community, Dr Foster and Dr Murray were clear that widespread compliance with lockdown restriction was having a positive effect.

But it remains imperative that widespread compliance continues.

Dr Murray said: "We had that rush initially of Covid-positive patients in our hospital.

"The numbers are certainly starting to drop."

Dr Foster added: "It's really important people understand it's the lockdown that's working – that's what's getting these numbers down.

"It's the fact that people are not spreading the virus from one person to the next."

And amid reports of more people in the streets and in vehicles, Dr Foster said: "I think we're all concerned when we see people out and about, doing things they wouldn't consider essential.

"We just want all the community to please to their very best to stick with it."

Latest figures show that, as of Friday, May 8, there were 828 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Forth Valley.

The number of people in hospital with confirmed cases was 26, and less than five people were in intensive care in the area with confirmed or suspected cases.

The number of deaths in Forth Valley linked to the virus stood at 156 as of Sunday, May 3 – the most recent data available.

To keep up to date with the local figures on the Advertiser's liveblog, visit tinyurl.com/ycyhpbcz.