CASES of coronavirus are again “swiftly increasing” in Clackmannanshire, confirmed health officials as residents in the county brace themselves for a period of lockdown.

However, Dr Graham Foster at NHS Forth Valley also said the Wee County “started at a good position” before the festive period and so rates of the virus remain under the national average at this time.

Fresh Covid-19 figures for the Wee County, with statistics released for the first time this year following the festive break, showed the total number of cases since March is past the 1,200 mark.

More than 30 new cases were reported in the area on Tuesday, January 5, with 146 new cases in the wider patch covered by NHS Forth Valley.

Forth Valley Royal Hospital in Larbert is now treating 57 patients with recently confirmed coronavirus and six people are in intensive care.

Dr Graham Foster, director of public health at NHS Forth Valley, said: “Like all areas across Scotland, Clackmannanshire has recently seen a rapid increase in cases of Covid-19 over the past couple of weeks.

“This is largely due to people mixing together before and during the festive period and the new variant of the virus which spreads much more quickly.”

Indeed, Public Health Scotland confirmed this week that “there is evidence that the new variant of Covid-19 originally reported from the south of England is circulating widely in Scotland”.

While case rates in the Wee County were high in early December, when a mobile testing unit was based at Alloa Town Hall, Dr Foster paid tribute to Clacks residents for working together to bring coronavirus under control.

He said: “The local population worked very hard to get the virus under control [early in December], following the guidance on avoiding transmission and getting tested if they had symptoms, so that the rates had started to come down by the time the new, more infectious variant arrived in Scotland.

“This means that Clackmannanshire started at a good position and, although cases are swiftly increasing again, the local case rate is currently just below the national average.

“It has never been more important to follow all the guidance and avoid close contact with anyone outside your immediate household, especially colleagues at work.

“The only safe thing to do is to treat everyone as if they already have the virus.

“That is why the new lockdown has become so important to help avoid unnecessary contact with others.

“Everyone is being asked to stay at home and not go out unless it is essential and, if you do go out, please follow FACTS, wear a face covering, avoid crowded spaces, stay two metres apart from others - including at work, clean your hands as often as you can and self isolate and book a test if you have any symptoms of Covid-19.

“Do not go into anyone else’s house and try not to meet people from other households, even outside.”