There is a “real risk” that the easing of coronavirus restrictions may have to be delayed in Moray amid outbreak, warns expert.

Linda Bauld, professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh, has stressed that Moray could be behind the rest of Scotland if infection rates don’t fall.

She told BBC Good Morning Scotland: “From what I understand from NHS Grampian colleagues this is not a specific outbreak as in a factory or another workplace, it is community transmission.”

Health authorities in the area are battling with “uncontrolled, sustained community transmission” of Covid-19, with current restrictions failing to contain the spread.

Latest statistics show Moray had a significantly higher rate in the seven days to May 7, than the rest of the country.

Bauld continued: “With 98 cases per 100,000, the R number is about 1.8, so people will recognise that means if you have 10 people who are infected, they could potentially pass it on to up to 18 so that’s very serious.”

The First Minister is set to review coronavirus restrictions across Scotland tomorrow, May 11, when she will outline the next easing of restrictions scheduled for May 17.

READ MORECoronavirus Scotland: Nicola Sturgeon to update on lockdown changes tomorrow

The country is expected to move down from Level 3 to Level 2, yet Bauld warned that Moray may be in a different position.

She explained: “I really hope the situation stabilises. Only nine cases yesterday, let’s hope it continues to decline.

“Otherwise, there is a real risk that Moray will, as we feared, be one area which might have to delay its easing a little bit just at this crucial time when the rest of the country is moving into that next stage.”

HeraldScotland: Moray had a significantly higher infection rate than the rest of Scotland.Moray had a significantly higher infection rate than the rest of Scotland.

Bauld credited NHS Grampian with their approach to combating the virus, by opening more testing sites, disseminating advice, and offering 18 to 39 year-olds Covid vaccinations.

She added: “I think what’s happened is we’ve still got a very transmissible virus, once you have clusters it does spread, and it does seem to be in that local area.

“So, I was particularly pleased to see two things – the first was opening of more testing sites in Moray and also giving good advice to people about the types of tests they can request based on symptoms or none, and the acceleration of that vaccine programme with invitations now being offered to younger adults more rapidly than elsewhere in Scotland.”

READ MORECovid Vaccine: More than 90 per cent of over-65s in Scotland have had both doses

The health board has launched an incident management team to try to bring the virus back under control, and is urging locals to get tested even if they don’t have symptoms.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney told BBC Good Morning Scotland: “We have a particular problem in Moray where there has been an outbreak.

“We are concerned about the degree of spread of that outbreak and I think there is a warning in there for all of us that we need to maintain our vigilance at all times to make sure that any particular incidents don’t become too significant.”

Meanwhile, the Covid-19 alert level in the UK has been downgraded from level 4 to level 3 after a “consistent” fall in cases, hospital admissions and deaths.

Scotland has recorded 168 new cases of coronavirus but no deaths in the past 24 hours.

The death toll under this daily measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – remains at 7,661.