SCOTLAND is now “on the cusp of a rapid acceleration” of a coronavirus outbreak – as Nicola Sturgeon has told people to “stay away from pubs, cinemas and other crowded places”.

The First Minister was speaking after Scotland, and all other parts of the UK, ramped up measures to try and delay the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

She urged people to begin working at home where possible and asked that they stop going to places with a high concentration of people such as pubs or cinemas.

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She added: "Reduce all non-essential social contact, and do that as much as possible"

The First Minister said social distancing is being recommended particularly for those who are over 70, have a medical condition that requires them to get the flu vaccination and pregnant women.

Ms Sturgeon said: “We are now on the cusp of a rapid acceleration of the spread of coronavirus. We could see a doubling of cases every few days.

“We must step up the measures that we take to slow the spread, to protect our National Health Service and its ability to provide care and treatment to those that need it and also, crucially, to save lives.”

She added: “There is no way of escaping that what we are advising people now to do will significantly and substantially change life as we know it for a considerable period of time.

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“We are all in this together. If we do the right things, if we all follow the advice that is being given, we can get through this and we will get through this.”

Scotland’s chief medical officer Catherine Calderwood said the new measures are likely to last for “several months”.

She added: "We have in Scotland sustained evidence of community transmission of the virus here.

"The measures that we are outlining are to prevent the spread of this virus and to protect our whole population."

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She said it is aimed at preventing NHS services from becoming overwhelmed.

Most of those who contract the virus are expected to have either mild or moderate symptoms, the briefing heard, but Dr Calderwood warned that "some of our Scottish population will become very severely ill and sadly some may die".

Very vulnerable people with compromised immune systems - estimated to be around 200,000 in Scotland - will be asked to self-isolate for a "period of weeks or months", Dr Calderwood said.