Three of Tayside’s biggest hospitals will be closed to nearly all visitors from Monday in an effort to protect patients and combat worryingly high levels of coronavirus.
The new restrictions will affect Ninewells, Perth Royal Infirmary and some sections of Stracathro.
NHS Tayside said the virus is circulating widely throughout Tayside, with the current incidence rate in Dundee higher than some parts of the central belt.
Covid cases have been rising across all parts of the region over the past week, with around 50 infected patients being treated at local hospitals.
Health chiefs say the number of suspected cases is also increasing on a daily basis.
Four wards in Tayside already have restricted visiting hours due to outbreaks.
The new restrictions, which come into force on Monday, will affect wards for adult patients in Ninewells, all wards of Perth Royal Infirmary and surgical wards in Stracathro.
There will be some exceptions, such as visits for patients receiving end-of-life care.
NHS Tayside’s Director of Nursery and Midwifery Claire Pearce said: “We understand that suspending visiting will impact on families and patients, and we know that not being able to visit family members whilst they are in hospital is distressing for many people.
“However, it is vital that we keep our patients, staff and the public safe.
“We hope everyone understands that we have made this difficult decision for these reasons.”
She added: “In order to manage the number of patients with the virus, we are using our three acute hospitals flexibly with patients and staff moving between the sites.
“This means that we must restrict visiting in all three sites to help further reduce the number of people coming into our hospitals each day and help limit the spread of coronavirus.”
She said virtual visits, using tablets, laptops and phones, will continue.
Patients have been asked to attend any outpatient clinic appointments and planned procedures, but to come alone – with the exception of children or vulnerable adults who can be accompanied by one other person.
Tayside Children’s Hospital, maternity and neonatal wards, community hospitals and mental health facilities will remain open to visitors.
NHS Tayside Interim Director of Public Health Dr Emma Fletcher added: “I would like to remind everyone coming into hospital to wear a face covering and follow hand hygiene and hand washing advice.
“People should not visit or attend our hospitals if they have any Covid-19 symptoms.”
Anyone with any questions about the new visitor restrictions is asked to speak to a senior charge nurse.