A CORONAVIRUS testing centre has been set up in the grounds of Borders General Hospital.

On Wednesday the first two cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in the region.

The couple, who had been travelling in one of the overseas 'risk areas', are now self-isolating and haven't required hospital treatment.

But health chiefs in the area are preparing for many more cases.

An occupational health vehicle has been converted into a testing centre.

And the trained staff will also be available to make home visits to patients who are unable to attend at the BGH testing vehicle.

NHS Borders Medical Director Dr Cliff Sharp said: "Testing in Borders is currently taking place using one of our occupational health vehicles located near the Primary Services block on the BGH campus.

"Should someone who requires testing be unable to attend the BGH site, testing can be carried out in their home.

"Please do not attend the Borders General Hospital or any healthcare setting and request a test for coronavirus.

"Testing is by appointment only.

"If you are worried you may have coronavirus call 111, stay indoors and avoid close contact with other people."

Although no patients with COVID-19 yet require care at the hospital, plans are now being finalised for the Margaret Kerr Unit to be turned into a specialised ward.

Dr Sharp added: "Following discussion with senior staff and clinicians it has been agreed that in the first instance the Margaret Kerr Unit will be the designated area for caring for patients with confirmed coronavirus.

"This eight bedded facility comprises fully of single en-suite rooms, has its own entrance and exit and a ventilation system that is separate from the rest of the hospital.

"Patients currently being cared for in the unit will be moved to the Cauldshiels ward which is currently being prepared. These moves will be carried out with the full involvement of patients, their families and carers.

"As the number of patients requiring inpatient care increases we will then expand into other areas of the hospital, and if the need arises into community locations.

"The response from staff across the organisation to quickly develop detailed plans has already been excellent."

Health centres across the Borders are asking patients to avoid attending surgeries unnecessarily.

Reception staff have been advised to talk with patients through the glass screens.

Online booking of appointments has stopped at many medical practices and weekly calls to patients with chronic illnesses may be scaled back.

And anyone who suspects they have COVID-19 or shows symptoms such as a fever, cough or shortness of breath are instructed to stay at home and call 111.

Dr Roger Brydon from Haylodge Health Centre in Peebles told us: "This is a rapidly changing and evolving situation.

"I'd encourage everyone to keep checking the most up to date information at websites for the UK Government, Health Protection Scotland or NHS Inform for advice and guidance on what to do.

"Locally, we will aim to maintain as near-normal a service as possible through what looks like being a very challenging period of time.

"However, in order to prioritise care to the most sick or vulnerable, there may have to be periods where normal services are suspended or not available.

"Any such changes will be notified via our practice website and our Facebook page, which I would encourage as many of our patients as possible to follow.

"Our patients' understanding during this period is appreciated, and we will endeavour to keep disruption to a minimum."

As well as the two cases being confirmed in the Borders, one of the other seven identified new cases across Scotland on Wednesday was the first who hadn't recently travelled overseas.

Chief medical officer Dr Catherine Calderwood said: "We have identified the first case of community transmission in Scotland, which is unrelated to contact or travel.

"This was identified through our enhanced surveillance scheme.

"It is important to emphasise that we are still in the containment phase.

"This case was to be expected and highlights the importance of the additional measures we have put in place to identify positive cases beyond self-identification."

As yet there are no plans to close schools or colleges in the Scottish Borders but officials say they are monitoring the situation.

Leisure operators Live Borders have stepped up cleaning at their swimming pools, libraries and other community facilities.

A spokesman said: "We are taking advice from the Government, Public Health Scotland and Scottish Borders Council and at this point, our facilities will remain open and our activities and programmes will go ahead as scheduled.

"As a preventative measure, we have increased our cleaning schedules across our facilities. We ask that our users assist us with this by using hand sanitisers provided."

The advice from NHS Borders is to maintain good hand hygiene - wash hands with soap and water or alcohol hand sanitiser before eating and drinking, and after coughing, sneezing and going to the toilet.

Also to avoid direct hand contact with your eyes, nose and mouth, to avoid direct contact with people who have a respiratory illness and avoid using their personal items such as mobile phone, to cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing with disposable tissues and dispose of them in the nearest waste bin after use.

If you believe you have coronavirus call 111.