The following is a joint media release from NHS Borders and Scottish Borders Council

The First Minister has announced further protective measures in response to rapidly rising cases of the Omicron variant across Scotland.

Whilst there are still no confirmed cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 in the Borders, there have been 340 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 in our region in the past seven days, which is an increase on the previous week.

Vaccination remains the best defence against the spread of the virus and we are in the process of accelerating our plans in order to get the population of the Borders boosted as soon as possible. There has been an excellent response to the drop in clinics that have taken place today and we thank everyone for responding to the call to action, and for being patient whilst awaiting their turn in the queue. We are continuing to work tirelessly to increase our capacity in order to get booster doses to everyone who is eligible as quickly as we can. Details of clinics are published on the NHS Borders website and on our Facebook page.

Keeping staff and the people we care for in health and care settings safe remains vitally important. If you are visiting loved ones in care homes it is recommended that individual visits should not involve any more than two households visiting any patient at a time. Visitors to care homes are also requested to take a lateral flow test before every visit. Please note that individual care homes may have stricter requirements.

If you are visiting the BGH or Community Hospitals every patient is able to have at least one visitor identified to visit them, and we also recommend taking a lateral flow test before each visit.

Urging people to comply with the new measures, Dr Tim Patterson, Director of Public Health said: “As Omicron continues to spread in Scotland, new guidance and measures are required to stem the flow of transmission, keep businesses and services open, and protect against pressure on health and care services.

“Please follow this guidance and help keep yourself and your family safe. If you have not yet received your Covid-19 vaccination then please act now to protect yourself and others.”

Recognising that despite the significant efforts being made, it will take a number of weeks to get everyone boosted, the following additional protective measures have been put in place;

> If you can work from home you should. If you are unable to work from home then you are encouraged to take regular lateral flow tests

> Please wear your face covering when you are out and about in public areas, and please wear it correctly, covering your nose and mouth

> In the run-up to and in the immediate aftermath of Christmas, you should reduce social interaction at home or in indoor public places to a maximum of three households at any time, with everyone encouraged to take a lateral flow test before meeting

> If you are socialising, please take a lateral flow before you go. If your lateral flow is positive you must isolate immediately and book a PCR test

> When socialising, keep rooms ventilated and maintain social distancing

> Wash your hands regularly and cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing

> Use the Covid-19 status (vaccine passport), Protect Scotland and Check-in Scotland apps

> When you are well, test with LFD kits twice a week and record your results
If you receive a positive LFD result, feel unwell or if you are asked to, self-isolate and book a PCR test immediately by visiting the GOV.UK website or calling 0800 028 2816.

> If you test positive or you are asked to provide details of people you have been in contact with please try to do so via online contact tracing. You can conveniently fill in contact tracing details online day or night without needing to speak to one of our Contact Tracers over the phone.