AN INCREASE of coronavirus cases in the region is a “stark reminder” that COVID-19 “hasn’t gone away”, says an NHS Borders chief.

According to the region’s health board, there were 25 confirmed cases of the virus in the Borders in the seven days to March 9.

That figure represents an increase of six COVID-19 cases compared with the previous seven days, with NHS Borders’ joint director of public health, Tim Patterson, urging people to continue to follow the rules.

"This increase in case numbers is a stark reminder that COVID-19 is still circulating in the community,” he said. “It hasn’t gone away.

“We all have a part to play in keeping case numbers down while the vaccinators do their work, children get back to school and we all take tentative but firm steps back to life as we once knew it, so please continue to stay within the rules and follow the FACTS advice."

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Meanwhile, more children will go back to school soon, with pupils in P4-7 returning to classrooms on a full-time basis from Monday (March 15).

All secondary school students will also receive some form of in-school teaching between Monday and April 2 - when the Easter holidays begin - and will then return on a full-time basis after the break.

Regarding more pupils returning to classrooms, Carol Hamilton, Scottish Borders Council’s executive member for children and young people, said: "I’m sure many young people in the Borders will be looking forward to spending more time in school with their classmates and teachers from Monday but I also realise that for some, this will be an anxious time.

“I would like to reassure everyone that meticulous planning has been taking place to enable us to provide a safe return for all our pupils and staff while prioritising attendance in school according to young people’s needs.

“We are making sure that our plans take into account all updated national guidance and that we have all necessary risk assessments, processes and procedures in place to keep the schools COVID-free.

“We have communicated directly with parents and carers over the past week and will issue more details to them today (Wednesday) ahead of the new arrangements coming into effect next week.”