NHS Borders warn public to 'take every possible precaution' after concerns over new strain of COVID-19

Borders General Hospital, Melrose. Credit: PA

NHS Borders has issued a warning about the new strain of coronavirus that has been identified in other areas of the UK.

In a statement released on Monday, the health board asked the public to we aware that it is 'possible' the new mutant virus is the area, but further testing is required to confirm cases.

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In the last seven days there has been a continued increase in the number of positive cases in the Borders. Last week, NHS Borders and the council warned the area's infection rate was 'no longer consistent' with that of level one of Scotland's coronavirus alert system.

Ralph Roberts, Chief Executive of NHS Borders said: “While I fully understand the disappointment many of us will feel having our Christmas plans disrupted, I would urge everyone to seriously consider how they can reduce their risk of catching COVID-19 in the run up to Christmas and on Christmas Day itself.

“NHS Borders is asking people to fully comply with the new restrictions within Level 4 that will be in place from 1 minute past midnight on Boxing Day. This will be essential if we are to continue to protect our loved ones and also if we are to ensure that the health service is not overwhelmed."

The increase in cases has caused the cancellation of some NHS services in the Borders, including routine planned operations, until the end of the year. Urgent and cancer procedures will still go ahead.

Mr Roberts continued: “If further vaccines become available in the new year then we will be able to progress even quicker, though it is likely to take between three and six months for the full vaccine programme to be completed.

“With the vaccine on its way it is more important than ever that we minimise the risks of spreading COVID-19 so that we minimise the harm caused until such time as the vaccine programme is complete."

Councillor Shona Haslam, Leader of Scottish Borders Council, added: “It is exceptionally important that everyone plays their part to minimise the spread of this highly infectious virus.

“The need to adhere to all restrictions, including the travel restrictions in place, is more important than ever as the situation in the Borders worsens still and I welcome the Chief Constable’s announcement that additional Police Scotland resources will be put in place as part of the continued effort of all partners to prevent the spread of COVID-19."