A "massive surge" of Covid cases in Dumfries and Galloway has prompted the suspension of some surgery at the region's hospitals.
Health officials said they had made the "very difficult decision" to halt some elective operations.
The number of Covid cases has risen sharply in the region with many of them the new, more transmissible strain.
NHS Dumfries and Galloway said it was facing a challenge "unlike anything we have confronted to date".
The health board said the number of cases had multiplied more than six times in a single week with nearly 90% of them a new, more highly transmissible strain - compared with a national average of about 54%.
Valerie White, interim director of public health, said: "The impact of this new variant is a complete and dramatic game changer.
"The latest data shows the new variant accounts for nearly 90% of our cases tested through the mobile testing units.
"In the space of just two or three short weeks, we've seen Dumfries and Galloway with its population of about 150,000 people move from being a region with some of the lowest rates of Covid to being near the top across the whole of Scotland in terms of infection rates."
She said the region had been "fantastic to date" in tackling the virus but now faced the "challenge of a lifetime".
Ms White said that had prompted the move to suspend some elective procedures.
"This is not a decision taken lightly," she said.
"However, admissions to hospital are increasing, and if we follow the current trajectory we can expect to see our services put under strain like never before."
She urged everyone to play their part in helping to deal with the "very difficult times ahead".