Nicola Sturgeon is expected to announce tougher coronavirus restrictions for Scotland today in a move which could see schools closed until the middle of February.
The SNP leader will meet with senior ministers this morning to agree new curbs before then delivering an urgent statement to a recalled Scottish Parliament this afternoon.
All of mainland Scotland is already placed in the highest tier of Covid-19 rules but Ms Sturgeon is due to further strengthen the measures amid a ‘rapid rise’ in infections.
Yesterday Scotland announced 2,464 new cases of the disease, with the latest figures for hospital admissions and deaths not due until Tuesday.
It is thought Ms Sturgeon’s further crackdown will effectively amount to another national lockdown, potentially lasting until the spring.
The planned reopening of Scottish schools on January 18 is widely expected to be pushed back, with reports suggesting they could be told to stay shut until the middle of next month.
A tougher stay-at-home message is also thought to be under consideration as well as a tightening of rules around meeting other households.
All of mainland Scotland is already under the toughest tier of restrictions, but First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said the nation must take ‘all steps’ to slow Covid-19
In a series of tweets, Ms Sturgeon said: ‘The rapid increase in Covid cases, driven by the new variant, is of very serious concern.
‘The steep increases and severe NHS pressure being experienced in other parts of the UK is a sign of what may lie ahead. So we must take all steps to slow spread while vaccination progresses.
‘We, like other countries, are in a race between this faster spreading strain of Covid and the vaccination programme.
‘As we work to vaccinate as quickly as possible, we must also do more to slow down the virus – to save lives and help the NHS care for all those who need it.
‘Following a meeting of the Scottish government resilience committee yesterday to assess latest situation, the Cabinet will meet tomorrow am to consider further action to limit spread and I’ve asked for Scottish Parliament to be recalled tomorrow afternoon so that I can set out our decisions in a statement.
‘All decisions just now are tough, with tough impacts.
‘Vaccines give us way out, but this new strain makes the period between now and then the most dangerous since start of pandemic.
‘So the responsibility of government must be to act quickly and decisively in the national interest.’
Ms Sturgeon’s comments come as the UK Government begins its roll-out of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine today.
Holyrood has been recalled for just the fifth time in its history today as Scottish MSPs discuss additional Covid-19 measures
In the biggest UK mass vaccination drive ever, half a million doses of the jab will be made available for vulnerable people this week with ‘tens of millions’ promised by April.
Chiefs at AstraZeneca had previously suggested up to 2million doses a week could be ready by mid-January.
But that target could be further off than expected, Professor Andrew Hayward told Good Morning Britain today: ‘Due to capacity issues it may be we don’t get to those levels until February for example. The earlier we can vaccinate people the better and the sooner will be able to control this.’
This is just the fifth time Parliament has been recalled and the second time within the last four weeks, after it sat on December 30 to consider the post-Brexit EU trade deal
Previously, it was convened after the deaths of Donald Dewar in October 2000 and the Queen Mother in April 2002.
It was also reconvened following the release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, in 2009.