Placing council areas with “stubbornly high” levels of coronavirus in Level 4 restrictions for a time could give more flexibility for a “limited and careful easing” of the rules over Christmas, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
The First Minister said her Cabinet will make decisions on Tuesday morning about any changes to where councils are in Scotland’s five-tier system of coronavirus measures.
She will then make a statement at Holyrood that afternoon.
Ms Sturgeon said officials are considering whether current restrictions are reducing coronavirus rates quickly enough in some areas, “particularly in parts of the west of Scotland that have a stable but still stubbornly high prevalence of the virus”.
She spoke about the issue as she revealed Scotland has recorded six deaths from coronavirus and 717 positive cases in the past 24 hours.
The First Minister told the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing on Monday the stubbornly high rates are causing concern as it means there is not the required level of assurance that regional hospital and intensive care services can cope as winter progresses.
“Stubbornly high prevalence means that we might have less flexibility to offer some limited and careful easing of restrictions over the Christmas period which we are very keen to do,” she said.
“Moving to Level 4 restrictions for a limited period in some areas, while not a decision we would ever take lightly because of the wider economic and social impact, would help us to address both of these concerns.”
Ms Sturgeon urged people to adhere to local measures, saying: “Every time we stop someone, especially someone who is older and more vulnerable, then we give them a chance of living into the era – which is firmly on the horizon – where better therapies, vaccines, testing and treatments will be available.
“I think that motivation as we are living under these restrictions right now is important to bear in mind.
“The end is not quite with us but we can see hope on the horizon now that we couldn’t see just a few weeks ago.”
Giving a further update on the daily coronavirus figures, she said the number of positive cases in the past 24 hours is lower than expected and is being examined.
The daily test positivity rate is 8.3%, up from 7.2% on Sunday, and of the new cases, 220 are in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 136 in Lanarkshire, and 101 in Lothian.
There are 1,227 people in hospital confirmed to have the virus, a fall of 14 in 24 hours.
Of these patients, 98 are in intensive care, down by two.
The death toll of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days is now 3,286.