An outbreak of coronavirus cases has been confirmed at a major Scottish hospital. 

A ward at Western General Hospital in Edinburgh has been forced into lockdown after positive cases of Covid-19 were identified and a "very small number" of patients died after testing positive for the virus.

The health board has said that six other patients have tested positive with Covid-19, and the oncology ward is locked down to new admissions or discharges for the time being. 

Health bosses have confirmed no new patients will be admitted to the affected ward and visiting has been suspended whilst investigations are underway. 

In a statement, NHS Lothian said: “Sadly, a very small number of patients, who had tested positive for the virus, have since died. Our thoughts are with their family at this sad time. We are unable to be specific about the number because the total is fewer than five.

“Six other patients have been confirmed with COVID-19 and the oncology ward has been closed to new admissions and discharges while investigations are underway and to allow tests to be carried out.

"All patients have been told of the outbreak and contact tracing, where necessary for visitors or outpatients, is being carried out by NHS Lothian’s Health Protection Team and the nationwide Test and Protect teams.”

Dr Donald Inverarity, Consultant Microbiologist, NHS LOthian, and chair of the IMT, said: "Our thoughts are with the family of the deceased and I would like to express our sincere condolences.

"A multidisciplinary Incident Management Team (IMT) was immediately established and all necessary infection control measures are in place. The situation will continue to be reviewed and monitored very closely.

"The enhanced outbreak testing regime allows us to identify staff patients who have the virus before they become symptomatic. 

"That gives us the opportunity to introduce enhanced infection control measures and barriers sooner than we would previously have been able. It allows staff to begin self-isolation and patients to be moved into co-horted groups before they become symptomatic, which in turn reduces the likelihood of passing on the infection to others.

"Patient safety is our main priority and while we understand that the request not to go home for the weekend may be upsetting, it is necessary.

"It will help reduce the risk of onwards transmission and protect their families and the wider community. I would like to thank patients and their families for their co-operation and understanding."