Health bosses have warned the region’s hospitals are in a “slightly precarious” position if a third coronavirus wave materialises.

Chief executive Jeff Ace believes that while Dumfries and Galloway is currently in a “relatively benign” situation compared to the rest of Scotland, an increase in case rates is likely.

And he fears that will have a knock on impact on the region’s hospitals, which are already stretched.

Mr Ace told Monday’s health board meeting: “We are in a relatively good position, however there is fragility in our service capacity at the moment that makes us susceptible to even quite small increases in Covid activity.”

He revealed that due to a combination of unscheduled admissions and a drop in care at home capacity allowing patients to be discharged, a number of elective operations have recently had to be cancelled even though no one was in hospital with coronavirus.

Mr Ace said: “We are slightly precarious, which makes us vulnerable to even slightly low levels of Covid hospital admission, but we are in as good a position as anywhere in mainland Scotland to deal with that third wave.”

The region currently has one of the lowest coronavirus case rates in Scotland.

But Mr Ace pointed out that the 50 cases per 100,000 threshold point was being approached “fairly rapidly”, at which stage the pandemic becomes “less easy” to contain via test, trace and protect.

Cases are larger in younger age groups, particularly the unvaccinated or people who have only had a single dose.

And taking into account the number of younger adults who will be ill and the fact the vaccines aren’t 100 per cent effective, Mr Ace said it was possible to model “quite a significant wave” of hospital activity.

But he added: “I am still in the more optimistic camp that, between the pace of our vaccination programme and the slowness of the new variant taking off in Dumfries and Galloway compared to more urban areas of Scotland, we are just ahead of that worst case projection.

“I think we should see a wave of increased transmissions, we should see some hospitalisation, but I don’t think the numbers stack up to see a significant hospitalisation.

“Nonetheless, it does have the potential to put an already stretched system under further pressure and that will have impact on the pace of our remobilisation.”

Mr Ace added the region’s vaccination programme was “very well advanced”, with people over 40 who have not had their second dose urged to make contact.

However, with full vaccination the most effective protection against the new delta variant, director of public health Valerie White warned that it takes three months from someone receiving their first jab to them building up maximum protection.