The Scottish Government is “particularly concerned” about a sharp rise in coronavirus cases in Inverclyde and Stirling, the First Minister has said.
And while the number of new cases in Glasgow, Lanarkshire, West Lothian and West Dunbartonshire has stabilised, it has done so at a “stubbornly high level”.
All those areas remain in level three of the five-tier Covid alert system, but are being monitored “on a daily basis”. If they end up moving to level four, that would be close to a full lockdown, with non-essential shops closing.
Only Fife, Perth and Kinross, and Angus will change tier, going up to level three, on Friday. That means pubs and restaurants there can no longer serve alcohol.
Speaking in the Scottish Parliament, Sturgeon said: “There are some areas in level three, where we are in recent days seeing a sharp rise in cases.
“I have to point out to the chamber that right now we are particularly concerned about Inverclyde and Stirling, and to a lesser extent South Ayrshire, Renfrewshire and East Renfrewshire.
“The advice of the chief medical officer and national clinical director is that – since these areas are already in the tougher level three restrictions and given the need to understand the situations in these areas in more detail – an immediate move to level four would not be merited.
“However, their advice is that we should monitor the data for these areas closely and on a daily basis.”
The five-tier Covid alert system, which came into force on November 2, ranges from level zero, where life is closest to normal, to four, which is closer to that of a full lockdown.
No areas are currently ranked in the bottom or top tiers.
Sturgeon said “given the severity of level four restrictions”, any decision to move a council area into that tier would not be taken “lightly”.
She added: “In addition, we want to give the current levels more chance to work.
“But nor will we shy away from doing that if we think it necessary to limit the damage the virus can do or if we think a short period at level four may be less harmful overall for an area than a prolonged period at level three.
“These are difficult decisions and the week ahead is a particularly crucial juncture.”