HEEDING the medical advice to stay at home and keep a social distance from others could be the difference between Scotland’s death toll being around 2,000 from the coronavirus outbreak or “tens of thousands,” a Government expert has warned.

Professor Jason Leitch, the National Clinical Director, spoke out after Nicola Sturgeon said pubs that stayed open during the Covid-19 outbreak were putting lives at risk.

The First Minister stressed that, while the "vast majority" of bars, restaurants and cafes had complied with instructions from the Scottish Government to close, she had seen suggestions on social media that a "small minority might not be complying".

She insisted: "If that's true, make no mistake...lives are at risk as a result. Please do the right thing now."

As she spoke out, Prof Leitch declared: "We really aren't messing around with this now. To protect individuals and society's vulnerable, we need to make very drastic social distancing and isolation choices."

The medical expert told the Sunday Mail: "The Chief Scientific Adviser in England has said he thinks 20,000 deaths across the UK would be a good outcome.

"In Scotland, that would be about 2,000 but the worst-case scenario is much worse than that. People need to take the advice they're being given very seriously," he insisted.

Heeding advice not to go out unless necessary and to stay away from others could be "the difference between tens of thousands of deaths and the number of around 2,000", he added.

Prof Leitch stressed: "We've told the symptomatic and very vulnerable to stay at home. Then we told some other groups - those with diseases, those over 70 and those who are pregnant - to take very seriously the calls to reduce social contact.

"For everyone else, they must socially distance themselves as much as possible; that means no pubs, no clubs, no birthday parties, no Mother's Day family dinners.

"It's a horrible thing and none of us have done it lightly but it's to protect the people that will get this virus because it's a proper disease," he added.

There have so far been seven deaths in Scotland and, with another seven recorded in Wales today, the UK death toll is now 240.