TRAVEL restrictions have been extended for six towns and villages in Dumfries and Galloway amid efforts to contain a Covid outbreak thought to be linked to a Carlisle hospital.

Residents of Gretna, Annan, Dumfries, Lockerbie, Langholm and Canonbie have been asked not to travel further than five miles from home for leisure this weekend while contact tracing is completed after ten positive cases of coronavirus were detected in the area since Monday - the first since June 22.

The limit - which has been lifted from tomorrow for the rest of Scotland - means care home visiting cannot resume as planned for premises within the cluster zone.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon urged businesses within the area to be extra vigilant with hygiene, adding that the five mile guidance “means you should not travel to pubs south of the border”.

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England is set to re-open pubs, bars, and restaurants from Saturday in the latest step in its exit from lockdown.

“This outbreak is sharply reminding us just how infectious Covid is, and how vital it is that we proceed with real care and caution,” said Ms Sturgeon.

Mass testing of staff is underway at the Youngs seafood factory in Dumfries and the Alpha Solway plant in Annan, which manufactures personal protective equipment (PPE) for the NHS.

Both sites have been linked to two of the known positive cases.

Ms Sturgeon said: “We are very hopeful that this outbreak will be contained and I should stress that there is no evidence to suggest otherwise at this stage.

“But until contact tracing and testing has been completed, we cannot be absolutely sure about that and that is why we are proceeding on a precautionary basis.”

Professor Jason Leitch, Scotland’s national clinical director, said the “index case” in the outbreak could be a healthcare worker employed at a hospital in Carlisle - thought to be the Cumberland Infirmary - who lives in Dumfries and Galloway.

Prof Leitch said: “The initial first case - and it may not be the index case, it’s too early to say - but the first case we were aware of is a healthcare worker from a Carlisle hospital, who may be connected to a nosocomial [institution-based] outbreak at that hospital.

“But we can’t be sure until we do genomic serology testing.”

Prof Leitch said he understood that NHS Cumbria is not aware of any cases outwith the hospital in their area which are linked to the outbreak.

A cross-border infection management team bringing together experts from NHS Dumfries and Galloway, NHS Cumbria, Public Health Scotland and Public Health England will continue to meet and monitor the situation over the weekend, said Prof Leitch.

He added that it was likely the outbreak had occurred as a result of breaches in social distancing and hygiene guidance.

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“Most clusters of this size, when the history is written, suggest that the guidelines may not have been strictly adhered to,” said Prof Leitch.

“We don’t know that for sure in this cluster but that is usually what happens. So I really implore you to obey the guidelines as best you can.

“If you follow them, you’re risk is low. If you don’t, your risk is high. It’s as simple as that.”

It comes as the latest figures indicate that there are now around 1500 people in Scotland infectious with virus, down from 2000 the previous week.