In East Ayrshire, 41 people have now died from coronavirus.

Almost a third of these deaths took place in care homes, with 13 dying while in care, 23 while being treated in NHS Ayrshire and Arran (NHSA&A) and five at home.

Dr Crawford McGuffie, NHSA&A’s medical director, said: “Unfortunately, coronavirus impacts greatly on older, frailer individuals. Experience from other countries has been that there is a particularly high impact on people within care homes.

“When you examine the demographic profile of Ayrshire you can see that we have a large proportion of older people. This is particularly the case in South Ayrshire, which has a higher number of care homes than East or North Ayrshire.”

Of the 159 coronavirus deaths Ayrshire and Arran, over a third took place in care homes rather than hospitals.

Ayrshire has a high number of older people which, Dr McGuffie said, could account in part for why the health board has the fifth highest death toll across the whole of Scotland.

Compared with other areas with similar populations, such as Fife and Tayside, Ayrshire’s death rate (the number of COVID-19 deaths per 10,000 people) is higher.

For every 10,000 people in NHSA&A more than four have died from the virus with a death rate of 4.3. In Fife and Tayside, the rate is 3.2 and 4.0 respectively.

Dr McGuffie said: “Ayrshire also has significant levels of poverty, and behavioural factors such as smoking, alcohol use and obesity, which are thought to contribute to increased risk of coronavirus complications.”

The First Minister has said hospital admission and intensive care figures give reason to be hopeful that the lockdown measures have worked.

But she cautioned against reading into the numbers too much, warning that any relaxation of the restrictions could see coronavirus spread faster.

Due to the small number of cases in Ayrshire, it is not possible to accurately determine the peak of the outbreak here.

Dr McGuffie said the epidemic has impacted on many lives since the first case was identified in Scotland and the national lockdown, on March 24, social distancing, self-isolating and shielding measures have significantly slowed down the spread of the virus.

He said: “Hospitalisations due to coronavirus have, as a result, decreased.

“However, there is always the chance that when isolation measures are lifted and the virus starts to circulate freely again cases will start to rise as part of a second wave.

“Our heartfelt thanks go out to our communities for all they have achieved in supporting the whole health and care system.”