The First Minister has today announced that lockdown restrictions will stay in place until at least mid-February.

Schools will remain closed to pupils, apart from children of key workers and invited young people, until the middle of next month.

The Scottish Government will review both situations on 2 February.

Leader of Scottish Borders Council, Councillor Shona Haslam, said: “It is clear that COVID-19 is still too prevalent in our communities so we need to stick with the lockdown restrictions for a bit longer. Please continue to stay at home as much as possible and only leave for essential purposes or to get some exercise. Our Community Assistance Hubs 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 assistance can contact their local hub through 0300 100 1800. It is also vital that as many people as possible work from home where they can and we are again asking employers to be flexible to allow this to happen. We want to get everyone back in our schools as soon as it is safe but for now we’ll continue to deliver home learning for the majority of our pupils. Inspire Learning continues to give us a fantastic platform to provide this. I want to thank all young people, parents and carers, and our staff for their flexibility and hard work as online learning continues for another few weeks.”

Meanwhile, over the past seven days 159 new confirmed cases of the virus have been registered in the Scottish Borders.

There are now 42 patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 being cared for across local hospitals, seven of whom are in the Intensive Care Unit.

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

Dr Tim Patterson, Director of Public Health, said: “Coronavirus affects people of all ages. Please do not be complacent. We are seeing patients of all ages requiring hospital treatment for COVID. A high proportion of confirmed tests are showing as being the new strain which we know is a lot more contagious. It therefore remains extremely important that everyone follows the Scottish Government advice; 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.”