Scottish Borders Council continues to work closely with NHS Borders and other partners as it accelerates its preparations and planning in response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

National guidance issued on Monday asked members of the public to stay at home as much as possible and avoid unnecessary social contact. People over 70 and those who have high risk and underlying health conditions are being given the same advice, but also told to significantly reduce unnecessary social contact.

People showing symptoms suggestive of Coronavirus should stay at home for seven days and only contact NHS 111 or their local GP if their symptoms worsen during that period. Members of a household where someone has suspected symptoms should stay at home for 14 days. This is required to allow appropriate time to assess whether you have contracted the virus or not.

Impact on Council services
Council meetings
A decision has been taken to cancel all formal Scottish Borders Council meetings with immediate effect. SBC is also contacting all community councils, recommending they do not hold meetings until further notice.

All schools remain open in line with national guidance. All residential trips will be cancelled. This includes trips planned within the UK. All day trips to places such as attractions, theatres and venues will also no longer be taking place.

Care homes
In order to keep our care homes as safe as possible, we have now been advised to implement additional precautionary measures which involves limiting access to one nominated family member per resident. If this person become unwell at all, they are asked not to attend the care home. We are also working with families to look at alternative ways of maintaining contact, whether that is through use of mobile phones or other digital devices.

Public toilets
A decision has been made to leave one public toilet open to use in each town which has more than one facility. The other public toilets in the town will be temporarily closed. This decision will aim to ensure our staff can maintain these facilities more frequently, consolidate resources and allow the public to still have access to soap and water to wash their hands when out and about in the community, in line with public health advice.

Following a small number of public toilets being vandalised at the weekend which resulted in soap dispensers and toilet rolls being taken, we would ask all residents to please respect the Borders’ public toilets to allow other members of the community to continue to use them.

Resilient communities
SBC is contacting all Resilient Community Groups in the region to ensure they are available and ready to provide support, particularly to vulnerable residents.

Chief Executive of SBC, Tracey Logan, said: “This is a difficult situation that changes on a daily basis but I would again like to reassure residents that our priority is the health and well-being of Borderers. We ask that you follow the national guidance, and look to minimise social contact by avoiding crowded areas and large gatherings. We’ve had to make some difficult decisions such as cancelling school trips and limiting our public toilet provision but everything we do is aimed at helping to mitigate the impact of Coronavirus as much as possible. We will continue to make decisions in respect of the Council’s services and any other community matters in light of guidance provided at a Scottish and UK level. I would encourage everyone to play #yourpart as much as possible and help members of the community. We will be speaking to Resilient Communities Groups across the Borders to see how they can help to co-ordinate these efforts, by arranging for vulnerable neighbours to be contacted and assist with things like shopping and picking up medicines for those who aren’t able to leave the house.”