Scots without Covid-19 symptoms could be tested in areas under toughest measures

People without coronavirus symptoms could be tested for the disease as part of a new regime in parts of Scotland placed under the toughest restrictions.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced the Scottish Government is working with the 11 local authorities that have been placed under Level 4 measures.

As part of a drive to expand asymptomatic testing, more details of which will be announced to Holyrood on Wednesday, Ms Sturgeon confirmed the Scottish Government is looking to “develop and deliver targeted geographical testing in a number of communities”.

Earlier this month, the First Minister said she was “looking carefully” at a pilot mass testing scheme in Liverpool.

Testing in Scotland will also be expanded to designated visitors to care homes, care at home workers and some other NHS staff, she said.

It came as Ms Sturgeon confirmed the 11 councils in Level 4 – including Scotland’s largest local authority, Glasgow City Council – will remain under these restrictions until Friday December 11.

The First Minister said while there may now be grounds for “cautious optimism”, no changes are being made to the levels of restrictions in place across Scotland this week.

Scotland has recorded 771 more positive cases and 41 deaths in the past 24 hours.

The First Minister added it is hoped ministers from across the UK can agree a “common framework” for Christmas restrictions at a meeting on Tuesday afternoon.

“I know everyone has a desire to see loved ones over the festive period,” she said.

“However, there is also a very real and a very legitimate anxiety that doing so could put those we love at risk, set back our progress as a country and result in unnecessary deaths and suffering.”

With the R number – the average number of people each person with the virus goes on to infect – now estimated as being between 0.8 and 1, Ms Sturgeon said the restrictions are “having an impact”.

She told MSPs at Holyrood: “We now have grounds for cautious optimism that numbers may be declining.”

Hospital and ICU admissions could also be falling, she said, though she stressed these numbers can “fluctuate on a day-to-day basis”.

While she said the national picture is “positive”, she added there are regional variations.

Clackmannanshire and Perth and Kinross are being monitored carefully “given recent increases in these areas”, Ms Sturgeon said.

The First Minister also said Midlothian case numbers have risen from 61 new cases per 100,000 to just over 97, with the “50% increase in one week” a “source of concern”.

As a “precaution”, she said Midlothian will remain in Level 3 “for a period”.

The neighbouring area of East Lothian has now moved from Level 3 to Level 2, while Ms Sturgeon indicated Dumfries and Galloway and Argyll and Bute could potentially move down to Level 1 in the “coming weeks”.

Cases have been rising in both Aberdeenshire and Aberdeen City, the First Minister said, but added these were attributed “in a large part” to specific outbreaks that are being managed.

As a result, she said there is no need for restrictions there to be increased from the current Level 2 status.