Covid in Scotland: New strain driving 'rapid increase' in cases

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It is feared the new more transmissible strain of coronavirus may be driving a "rapid increase" in infections in Dumfries and Galloway.

Health officials say 64 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in Wigtownshire amid fears more cases are yet to be identified.

It comes after the rapidly spreading variant of the virus was detected on Christmas Eve.

A further case has also been identified in lower Annandale.

The health board said daily testing was being made available throughout the new year.

'Suffered tragedies'

They also said that 12 staff and patients at Galloway Community Hospital had now been confirmed as having the virus as testing continued in the hospital and the area's care homes.

The B.1.1.7 variant of Covid-19 is up to 70% more transmissible and is viewed as being responsible for significant volumes of cases in south east England.

The variant has 17 mutations, where the virus has changed, with some of these changes making it more infectious in lower doses.

Along with the rest of mainland Scotland, Dumfries and Galloway has been moved to level four restrictions to try and curb the spread of infection.

Interim director of public health, Valerie White said: "The region has suffered tragedies as a result of Covid-19, but has not been as badly affected as some other areas.

"However, if this new B.1.1.7 variant is quickly establishing a foothold then it has the potential to significantly alter the outlook for our region."

She urged the public to follow public health advice including wearing face coverings and observing hand hygiene and physical distancing measures.

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