PEOPLE in the Borders have tested positive for the new strain of coronavirus, the region’s health board has confirmed.

In a statement issued today (Wednesday, December 30), NHS Borders said nearly 200 cases of COVID-19 have been recorded during the Christmas week.

Tim Patterson, the public health director, said the mutant strain of the virus was identified among the cases.

Dr Patterson said: “There are now cases of the new variant strain of COVID-19 in the Borders as in other mainland boards; and this variant is highly transmissible which means it is easier to catch and easier to pass on.”

The new strain, first identified in the UK in September, was the driver of infections in parts of England by November.

It is thought to be up to 70 per cent more transmissible than the original variant, but there is no evidence suggesting it causes more severe illness.

“If you do not mix with people you cannot come into contact with the virus – it is as simple as that,” said Dr Patterson, adding: “I am urging people not to break the rules and socialise over the new year weekend.”

He said the health board is aware that some people have been breaking the Level 4 lockdown rules, which came into effect on Boxing Day.

“We know that there are cases where people are mixing with others and not following the rules that apply to the level 4 restrictions currently in place,” said Dr Patterson.

NHS Borders says that in the seven days from December 22, the region recorded 190 cases of COVID-19.

Medical director Lynn McCallum said: “We are seeing an increase in the number of people requiring medical attention due to COVID-19.

“There are currently 28 patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 being cared for in the Borders General Hospital, with a further eight people in Hay Lodge Hospital [in Peebles] which remains closed to admissions.”

Meanwhile, Dr Patterson said the Test and Protect team is working “tirelessly” to trace close contacts of people who have tested positive for COVID-19.

In an appeal to Borderers, he added: “The actions we all take now will have an impact in the coming months so please, do the right thing.

“These rules are really important if we are to keep each other safe and allow time for the COVID vaccination programme to take place over the coming months.”

Borders GP Kevin Buchan said: “Everyone has a role to play in protecting themselves from this virus by staying at home.

“Do it for yourself, your family, your friends; and to protect the services that you rely on across our communities and the people who are working tirelessly, round the clock, to deliver them.”

For a full list of Level 4 restrictions and further guidance, visit the Scottish Government website.