Lochaber council wards at low risk of virus transmission, say researchers

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Lochaber council wards are among those rated as being at lowest risk from COVID-19 transmission in Scotland, according to a new Scottish think tank.

So says a team of researchers and analysts at Glasgow-based Scotianomics, which has ranked all of Scotland’s 354 council wards, from highest to lowest, for the risk of COVID-19 transmission and the potential for fatalities.

However, Scotianomics stressed the rankings have nothing to do with the number of cases in an area or how well people have observed the lockdown.

Fort William and Ardnamurchan fares best of our mainland wards, ranking 326th out of 354 with a risk score of just 9.2.

Caol and Mallaig ward is ranked 324th, with a risk score of 9.9, while Eilean a’ Cheòward (Skye) is ranked  312th with a risk score of 13.7.

Wards in the Western Isles are ranked as being of similarly low risk, while Oban is ranked 321st with a risk score of  10.8.

Ranked in first place (worst) is Inverclyde North with a risk score of 112.7.

The risk index and associated interactive map shows significant differences between Scottish communities, and suggests a phased, geographic easing of lockdown should be considered by the Scottish Government.

Scotland’s northern rural regions, such as the Highlands and Islands, are least at risk the report suggests,  because despite their older populations with many vulnerable members, there are decreased levels of connectivity and geographically spread-out populations.

Launching the index, Scotianomics founding director, Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp, said what was  evident is that, for a wide variety of reasons, the risks vary hugely in different communities across Scotland.

‘In terms of both the economy and health and well-being, we believe it makes sense to ease the lockdown according to those regional differences in risk,’ he added.

The research was conducted during April and has already been submitted to the Scottish Government’s Advisory Group on Economic Recovery.

Currently the research does not factor in actual infection rates or fatalities in each area as these figures are not yet publicly available in sufficiently detailed format.

Rather it is based on existing data for Scotland’s 354 local authority wards and calculates each area’s risk of exposure according to two factors – transmission probability and potential for fatalities.

The data used in those calculations include population density and how many older people or those with underlying health conditions live in the area.

Mr MacIntyre-Kemp added: ‘We want to be absolutely clear. This is nothing to do with the number of cases in an area or how well people living in each area have observed the lockdown. It is not a map of COVID-19 cases across Scotland but of the areas most at risk of community infection.

‘However, what it sets out very clearly is that the risks of transmission and the likelihood of fatalities within particular communities can be predicted with a high degree of confidence.’