That is the message that people in the Scottish Borders are being reminded of as we continue to see high numbers of confirmed case numbers of Covid-19 across the area. Many of these cases are the new variant strain of the virus which is highly contagious.

Over the past seven days 302 new confirmed cases of the virus have been registered. Whilst this is a drop on the previous week, the number of patients being admitted to hospital with Covid-19 continues to increase. There are now 53 patients with confirmed or suspected Covid-19 being cared for across our hospitals, five of whom are in the Intensive Care Unit. These figures are the highest since the pandemic started.

There are currently three dedicated COVID wards open in the Borders General Hospital and NHS Borders say they are ready to open a fourth ward to cope with the heightened demand if that is required.

Dr Tim Patterson, Director of Public Health said: “Coronvirus affects people of all ages. Please do not be complacent. There are high rates of infection across the population including younger age groups, and we are seeing patients of all ages requiring hospital treatment for COVID. We remain in lockdown across mainland Scotland. You must follow the Scottish Government advice and stay at home. If you do not mix with people you cannot come into contact with the virus – it is as simple as that. The actions we all take now will enable us to emerge from this very challenging period as soon as we can. It is important for physical and mental health to get outside for exercise if you can. However if you do leave your house for exercise please remember that you can only meet up with one other person from one other household, and you must maintain social distancing whilst you are together. If the place you go to is busy then please leave and go somewhere else.”

The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones is to follow the FACTS:

· Face coverings in enclosed spaces
· Avoid crowded places
· Clean hands and surfaces regularly
· Two metre distancing; and
· Self-isolate and book a test if you have symptoms

“If you develop any symptoms of COVID-19 which are a new continuous cough, a fever/high temperature (37.8C or greater) and /or a loss of, or change in, sense of smell or taste you should self-isolate immediately and visit NHS Inform or phone 0800 028 2816 to book a test. A new continuous cough is defined as if you are coughing a lot for more than 1 hour, or you have been coughing a lot 3 or more times in 24 hours. If you normally have a cough, it may be worse than usual. Whilst you wait for your test all of your household members must self-isolate. This is really important to prevent potential spread of this highly contagious virus.”