NICOLA Sturgeon has called for a “collective national effort” to cope with coronavirus, as she said her job was now basically “saving lives”.

The First Minister told MSPs: “I don’t want to scare people. But I do want people to understand this is not a drill. This is real and it is happening.”

Ms Sturgeon was speaking at a sombre First Minister’s Questions devoted to the health crisis, at which the public galleries were empty and a third of MSPs absent.

She said the pandemic has left her “acutely aware… of the inability of Government alone to deal with the challenge”.

She said: “I need the help of everybody across Scotland. This has to be a collective national endeavour.

“It will not be easy, but if all of us - Government, the public and all parts of the economy and the public sector - pull together, I have confidence that the country will be able to get through the current situation, notwithstanding how incredibly difficult and challenging it is.”

She stressed that following guidance on self-isolation and social distancing was “not optional”.

“I repeat: the advice is not optional, and should not be seen as being optional. It is about saving lives. I have never before had to stand up in the Parliament and say anything so blunt. My job right now - it is not just me who is doing this; I am leading an effort that is enabling everybody to do it - is about saving lives, so we all have to follow the advice for that purpose.”

Ms Sturgeon had started the session by confirming the Covid-19 death toll in Scotland had risen from three to six overnight and the number of positive had gone up 39 to 266.

She also said work was underway to raise testing capacity for the virus in Scotland from 780 to 3000 daily.

She said ministers would maintain statutory funding to private and third sector nurseries worth £220m, even while children were at home, to help keep them afloat.