CARE homes have been taking steps to protect elderly residents from coronavirus.

A restriction on visitors is among the changes being put in place across the region following guidance from NHS Borders and the Scottish government.

The manager of Selkirk’s Thornfield House, Thornfield Avenue, told us visitors have been banned since Friday (March 13).

Elspeth Douglas said: “The care home is closed to visitors at the moment until we get further advice from the Scottish government.”

A total of 25 people stay in the home, according to Ms Douglas, with 30 staff seeing to their needs.

In the past, outbreaks of flu and norovirus posed a significant challenge, said Ms Douglas, due to residents being aged 65 and older.

But COVID-19 represents an even greater cause for concern, Ms Douglas said.

“Coronavirus is a much stronger strain and more easily transmitted,” said Ms Douglas, going on to outline some new policies.

“We’ve installed handwashing procedures for staff and for everybody else coming into the care home,” said Ms Douglas. “They have to wash their hands when they come in and leave.

“But we’re waiting to hear what’s going to happen if the coronavirus hits.”

Ms Douglas said staff remain “upbeat” and most residents are calm too.

She said: “The resident base that I’ve got here, I’ve got many dementia sufferers so they’re not really taking in how serious this could be.

“It’s really the residents’ families that have concerns and obviously me as manager worried about if somebody does get the virus.”

Scottish Borders Council has responsibility for care homes including Waverley Residential Home in Galashiels and St Ronans House in Innerleithen.

A council spokesperson said on Monday (March 16) that access to residents has become restricted to one nominated family member, but alternative forms of maintaining contact are being encouraged.

The spokesperson said it is a “worrying time” for both residents and family members.

A council statement reads: “We are working closely with NHS Borders and Scottish Government, and following all national guidance, to ensure we can continue to deliver the best possible care for all of our residents.

“In order to keep them as safe as possible, we have now been advised to implement additional precautionary measures which involves limiting access to one nominated family member per resident.

“If this person becomes unwell at all, they are asked not to attend the care home. We are also working with families to look at alternative ways of maintaining contact, whether that is through use of mobile phones or other digital devices.

“We fully appreciate that it is a worrying time for residents and family members alike, and are very grateful to everyone for their support and co-operation during what is a difficult situation for everyone.

“Letters of reassurance have been sent to all family carers, but if anyone has any concerns, they should contact the manager of their care home for advice.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Health Protection Scotland (HPS) has published specific guidance for infection prevention and control in social or community care and residential settings for COVID-19 to support those working in the social care sector

“In addition to the HPS guidance, the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) has developed specific clinical advice for nursing home and residential care residents and COVID-19, in particular visits and new admissions.

“We are discussing with Scottish Care what more can be done to ensure the overall wellbeing of residents in long term care homes.”