The record for the highest number of daily Covid cases since the start of the pandemic has been broken for the third time in a week.
In a briefing on Friday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that in the last 24 hours, 6835 new cases have been recorded in Scotland.
The figure has risen from the previous records of 4323 new cases reported in Tuesday’s statistics and the 5021 new cases in Wednesday’s statistics.
It comes almost three weeks after most coronavirus restrictions were lifted across Scotland.
The First Minister said that as of Thursday, there were 479 people in hospital, with 47 people in intensive care.
A total of four more deaths were also recorded over the last 24 hours, the First Minister added.
Sturgeon said that the Scottish Government “can’t and shouldn’t” rule out the prospect of re-imposing Covid restrictions if required, but stressed that a circuit breaker lockdown is not currently being considered.
She said: “The vaccines have allowed us to take a far less restrictive approach to dealing with the virus, than we did at earlier stages of the pandemic.
“We also know that the measures which have been in place for the last 17 months have in themselves caused serious harm.
“That is why – even although, if we are at all responsible, we can’t and shouldn’t rule anything out in the midst of a pandemic, none of us want to go backwards to even limited restrictions.
“But we cannot ignore the current surge in cases either. My job in times like these is not to be popular – it is to take any decisions, no matter how difficult, that are necessary to keep us safe.”
She added: “I want to be clear that some of the speculation you might be reading in the media just now is not accurate – for example, we are not currently considering a circuit breaker lockdown.
“For the moment, though, I do need to stress the vital importance of everyone playing their part in limiting the spread of the virus.
“The more we all do this, the more chance we have of avoiding the need to re-impose any formal restrictions.”
“The Scottish people cannot be kept in this holding pattern of removing and introducing Covid restrictions.”Murdo Fraser, Scottish Conservative MSP
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said that lockdowns should be a “very last resort”.
“This surge in cases was avoidable and we’re not prepared as a country for it to get worse,” he said.
“Our NHS remains at breaking point as it does the vital work to catch up on treatments delayed from the last pandemic.”
He added: “Lockdowns should be our very last resort – not a fall-back option for government incompetence.”
The Scottish Conservatives’ Covid recovery spokesman Murdo Fraser warned that imposing strict restrictions would have “serious consequences” for jobs and people’s mental and physical health.
“Nicola Sturgeon cannot put Scotland’s recovery in jeopardy by heightening the threat of restrictions when our vaccine system has been so successful,” he said.
“Imposing strict restrictions would have serious consequences for jobs, mental and physical health. Depending on their severity, it may increase NHS backlogs.
“The Scottish people cannot be kept in this holding pattern of removing and introducing Covid restrictions, particularly when there is no threat of a new variant at this time.