Scots could face “even stricter and more difficult” measures to help curb the spread of coronavirus, the First Minister has said.
Nicola Sturgeon issued the warning as Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Catherine Calderwood, said the nation is “on the cusp of a rapid acceleration of cases of coronavirus”.
Dr Calderwood said there is “evidence of sustained community transmission across Scotland”.
Ms Sturgeon said there are now 322 confirmed cases of the virus in Scotland – a rise of 56 from Thursday – as well as six deaths, and she urged anyone planning to go out this weekend to stay at home.
As she did so, she warned harsher measures may be needed in future to help save lives and stop the NHS becoming overwhelmed with cases.
Speaking at the Scottish Government’s headquarters in Edinburgh, the First Minister said: “I don’t particularly find it helpful to use words like lockdown, because I don’t think people really understand what that means in practice.
“But there is absolutely no doubt – we have said this all along – that we will keep the measures we are asking people to take and whether there is a need for additional measures under ongoing review.
“I am saying very clearly it should not be assumed that what we are asking people to do now will not become even stricter and more difficult in future.”
Dr Calderwood warned: “We are on the cusp of a rapid acceleration of cases of coronavirus in Scotland.
“We have seen increased numbers day on day in the past week or two, and we also have evidence of sustained community transmission across Scotland.”
While the Chief Medical Officer acknowledged the restrictions that have already been introduced are “difficult”, she insisted they will make a difference.
Dr Calderwood said: “All of the scientific advice tells us these measures will be effective to slow the spread of the virus, to prevent many people becoming so sick that they are admitted to hospital and sadly dying because of the disease.
“But the measures will not be effective if people don’t comply with them.
“If people don’t comply they really do as individuals make a difference to our country, they risk not only their own health, but the health of those around them, the health of our vulnerable groups, and the risk of our capacity in the NHS having too many people to be able to care for them in the way they would wish.”
Ms Sturgeon also spoke about the “sacrifices” the public are being asked to make, as she said she is concerned younger people in particular may be “disappointed” at not being able to go out over the weekend.
As of 2pm today 7550 Scottish tests have concluded
7228 confirmed negative322 positive
6 patients who tested positive have sadly died.
— Scottish Government (@scotgov) March 20, 2020
She told them: “I know some of you might be wanting to head out to the pub for a final night out, or looking forward to a meal out with friends, but my guidance to you is clear, and crystal clear – please do not do this.
“You must not consider this vital health advice to be merely optional.
“It is vital for the protection of all of us and it is vital to help us save lives.
“Doing everything we can to slow down the spread of this virus now means we will save lives and we will protect our NHS. We cannot just carry on as normal, life right now is not normal.”
The First Minister also repeated pleas to shoppers not to stockpile, insisting: “There is no need to do that.
“If everyone remains sensible in their shopping then there is more than enough to go round.”