NHS Borders one of 'greatest immediate concerns' for Scottish Government

NHS Borders is one of three or four health boards in Scotland giving the government "greatest immediate concern" when it is looking at NHS capacity to deal with rising COVID cases, Nicola Sturgeon has warned.

Yesterday the First Minister told MSPs that "in terms of hospital beds", NHS Ayrshire and Arran was at 96% of its Covid capacity, and three other health boards - Borders, Greater Glasgow & Clyde and Lanarkshire - were above 60% of their capacity.  

The First Minister told ITV Border the reason why cases have increased in the south of Scotland, which only a matter of weeks ago had a low incidence of the outbreak, was simply down to the new more contagious strain of the virus.

At her daily media briefing I asked Ms Sturgeon whether this might have been down to people travelling to Dumfries & Galloway and the Scottish Borders, to cross-border journeys, or if it was indeed a result of the new strain of COVID?

The First Minister said that she often looked for "deep complex reasons" for the spread, but that it was clear to her why this has happened in the south of Scotland.

Ms Sturgeon told me: "We have a new strain of the virus that is transmitting 70% more easily, that is why it has happened. If it is transmitting 70% faster then we're going to see situations like you rightly say in Dumfries and Galloway, with Borders.

"These are areas we moved down into level one not long before the end of the year because case incidence was so low. But the virus has this new strain, has got in there, that will undoubtedly be to some extent travel-related, with people who'll have brought it either returning from elsewhere in the UK or coming from elsewhere in the UK but it is spreading very quickly."

The First Minister added: "And therefore now Borders is one of the three or four health boards that gives us the greatest immediate concern about hospital capacity and that makes it all the more important that people in the Borders, Dumfries and Galloway, right across the country, understand the severity of this and understand why we are saying to people 'stay at home'. Because the more you stay at home, the less likely you are to come into contact with people and spread this virus or get this virus."

NHS Borders told us, "Our admissions doubled last week compared to the week prior. We opened our third CV ward at the weekend increasing our capacity from 22 to 44 open Covid beds, and currently 27 of the 44 beds are filled, 61%."

The latest figures complied by the Scottish government show that Scottish Borders had 499 new cases over the last seven days, up to 2 January, 432 cases per 100,000 of population, higher than the Scottish average of 280. The total number of cases so far has been 1,964, 1,700 per 100,000 of population.

For Dumfries & Galloway the figure is 798 cases in the last seven days, 536 per 100,000 of population, with the total at 2,337, or 1,570 per 100,000 of population. More COVID information from the Scottish government is available here.