People in the Scottish Borders are again being urged to stay at home as we continue to see steep rises in 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.

Daily data published by the Scottish Government confirms that there have been 2,013 confirmed positive cases of Covid-19 in the Borders since 7 March 2020. That is an increase of 508 cases since Wednesday 30 December 2020.

The Borders currently has the THIRD highest rate in Scotland of positive cases per 100,000 (over seven days) at 439.8.

The number of patients requiring hospital admission who have tested positive for, or are presumed to have Covid-19, doubled last week compared to the week prior.

There are now three dedicated COVID wards open in the Borders General Hospital and we have capacity to open additional wards as and when required.

There are always peaks and troughs in demand for health and social care services, especially during winter months, so our systems are designed to have flexibility.

Medical Director, Dr Lynn McCallum, said: “The increased rise in Covid-19 cases across the Borders in recent weeks is undoubtedly due, in part, to the spread of this new highly transmissible variant. It is important to remember that people who require hospital care as a result of Covid infection often present approximately two weeks after becoming infected; so we expect the impact of rising case numbers to last for weeks; particular as we start to see the effects of increased household mixing that took place over the festive period. We are working hard to maintain a level of routine services including all urgent, cancer and emergency surgeries. Although a proportion of our outpatient services have been stopped in order to release medical staff to other wards. We understand that people may be anxious about visiting healthcare settings whilst Covid-19 is circulating. Robust infection prevention and control measures are in place to keep our patients and staff as safe as possible, so if you do have an appointment please attend and remember to wear a face covering and attend alone unless you are unable to do so.”

Dr Tim Patterson, Director of Public health added: “We are in lockdown across mainland Scotland. Please 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.

“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.”

Councillor Shona Haslam, Leader of Scottish Borders Council, said: “This is a very serious situation. This new strain is on the rise here in the Borders and whenever possible we need to stop, or at least minimise, our contact with other people. I realise this is a worrying time for us all but we will get through it, and you can help just now by staying at home as much as possible. As the number of positive cases continues to rise rapidly this will put council services under more pressure. I would like once again to thank all our hard working staff, especially in health and social care who continue to face many challenges. Our Community Assistance Hubs will continue to operate to support those in critical need and co-ordinate support across a range of partners and community groups. Anyone in need of help and support can contact their local hub through 0300 100 1800. Schools also remain open for children of key workers and invited young people, and we will again be able to use our world-leading Inspire Learning programme to support online learning for our young people throughout the region.”