The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in Scotland is likely to rise “very rapidly” in the coming days, Nicola Sturgeon has warned.
Addressing the current situation amid the outbreak of Covid-19, the First Minister said officials are still working to delay the spread and reduce the impact on the public and the NHS.
Scottish Government ministers “will not hesitate” in taking measures to protect people from the disease, she said.
In England, one patient with underlying health conditions has died after contracting coronavirus – the first fatality linked to the virus in the UK.
Speaking at First Minister’s Questions on Thursday, Sturgeon said: “We all recognise and accept that it looks increasingly unlikely that we are going to be able to contain this outbreak indefinitely.
“So therefore it is likely that we will move into the delay phase of the virus and that may be reasonably soon, but that will be guided by the best scientific advice.”
Describing the situation as “very serious”, she added: “As of this morning we have six confirmed cases. I would expect that to rise – possibly very rapidly – in the days to come.
“I also want to stress that we are still very much in what is called the contain phase of the virus in Scotland.
“If people follow the advice, if we ensure confirmed cases are isolated, that contacts are traced and given appropriate advice, and if the public follow the advice on hand (washing) and other personal hygiene, then we can continue to have a degree of success in stopping the spread from individual to individual, and it is important that we do that for as long as possible.”
Explaining the importance of delaying the spread of the infection, Sturgeon said: “We may not be able to contain the virus indefinitely, but every day we manage that and every week that we manage that, taking a future peak out of the winter period and into spring and summer, then we help to reduce the impact.”
The FM also said she is confident Scotland’s two coronavirus testing facilities in Glasgow and Edinburgh would be able to cope with the rising demand, although discussions are ongoing about opening further sites in Tayside and Grampian.
Sturgeon further confirmed work is under way to identify recently retired NHS staff as part of “contingency plans to encourage and ask those who have recently retired from the National Health Service to come back if that is required”.
Later on Thursday, a statement from the Royal Berkshire NHS Trust said:
“Sadly, we can confirm that an older patient with underlying health conditions has died.
“The patient has previously been in and out of hospital for non-coronavirus reasons, but on this occasion was admitted and last night tested positive for coronavirus.
“The family has been informed and our thoughts are with them at this difficult time.
“We will not be commenting further and ask that everybody respects the family’s privacy.”