The First Minister has this week announced the planned phased return of some children and young people to schools from 22 February. This will see the return of all P1-3 pupils and the reopening of early learning and childcare settings.

Some senior secondary pupils will also attend school on a limited basis to allow them to complete work for national qualifications. The Scottish Government will take a final decision on this partial reopening on 16 February.

Those who work in schools, and in early learning and childcare settings attached to schools, will be offered at home testing twice a week. All senior phase secondary school students will be offered this too.

Meanwhile, people in the Scottish Borders are being urged to ‘stick with it’ and stay at home as the First Minister has also announced a further extension to lockdown restrictions.

It is clear that the measures in place are having an impact on supressing the virus, and this is shown in the continued reduction in confirmed cases in the Borders. However case numbers still remain at a level that is too high, and with the highly contagious variant now the dominant strain and with the numbers of patients with Covid-19 who require hospital treatment remaining stubbornly high, it is clear that this virus is still present and dangerous.

Daily data published by the Scottish Government confirms that there were 89 confirmed cases of COVID-19 recorded in the Borders over the past seven days.

Three dedicated COVID wards remain open in the Borders General Hospital as well as a recently opened COVID-19 Higher Observation Unit within Ward 5. This means that patients with the virus who are well enough to leave the Intensive Care Unit can be cared for in a suitable environment whilst helping to relieve pressure on ITU. The same applies for patients who are being cared for on a COVID ward and who become more unwell but do not need to be admitted to ITU.

In addition to responding to COVID, there has been significant pressure on the wider health system over the past week with high numbers of people requiring admission to the BGH for non COVID related conditions.

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. If you live in one of the communities where we are offering testing for people without symptoms then please take advantage of this. More than a third of Covid-19 cases are present in people who show no symptoms, so by getting a test you could be breaking the train of transmission and preventing spread of the virus.”

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