THE number of confirmed deaths related to coronavirus has risen to 366 in Scotland, according to the latest statistics, but figures suggest the true toll is much higher.

Nicola Sturgeon today said 70 more people had died after testing positive for Covid-19.

But separate statistics suggest substantially more people may have fallen victim.

Figures from the National Records of Scotland (NRS) show 354 deaths were linked to the virus as of April 5.

The NRS figures, which will be published weekly from now on, include all deaths in which a doctor considered Covid-19 to be a factor.

This compares to the daily Health Protection Scotland statistics, which only cover deaths where a coronavirus diagnosis has been confirmed through laboratory testing.

The NRS figures cover a period up to April 5, when the confirmed HPS coronavirus death toll stood at 220.

This suggests the true number of deaths linked to Covid-19 was substantially higher than previously reported.

The statistics also show a massive spike in deaths in the week beginning March 30 as the virus continues to spread.

People in the 75 to 84 age range were the most affected, but four people in the 15 to 44 age range also died.

The First Minister said: "Each and every one of these statistics represents an individual whose loss is a cause of deep grief, so I want again to express my condolences to everyone who has lost friends, family or loved ones."

She added: "These new weekly figures include more detailed information than previously.

"These breakdowns show that those who are older are more likely to die of Covid-19 but they show that nobody is immune, so everybody should follow the instructions."

She continued: "This information is also essential to help us understand who is most severely impacted by the virus and where there are any hotspots. It also helps us plan for beds in hospitals and when the peak is likely to pass.

"I understand that the figures can make us feel powerless and something we can't see or feel is taking lives but by following the rules and by self-isolating, all of us can help to reduce the number of deaths."

The NRS statistics show the total number of deaths registered in Scotland from March 30 to April 5 was 1,741.

The average number of deaths registered in the same week over the last five years was 1,098.

This means there were 643 more deaths than might be expected. Just 282 related to Covid-19, leaving a large number unexplained.

NRS statistics capture all deaths where the death certificate states that Covid-19 was relevant.

This includes those where a positive test has taken place and also those where it is suspected Covid-19 was a relevant factor.

It covers all settings, including hospital and community deaths.

More than 60 per cent of all deaths involving Covid-19 were people aged 75 or over, while 55.6% were male.

The first mention of Covid-19 in a death registration was the week beginning March 16.

Between March 30 and April 5, 282 deaths relating to Covid-19 were registered. There were 62 in the previous week, and 10 in the week before, March 16 to 22.

Greater Glasgow and Clyde recorded the highest number of Covid-19 deaths, with 122 registered.

Pete Whitehouse, director of statistical services, said: “We are living in unprecedented times and all of these deaths are tragic.

"These statistics, when placed alongside the other important evidence being made available by the Scottish Government and Health Protection Scotland, will be valuable to the understanding of the progress and impact of the Covid-19 virus across Scotland."

Elsewhere, Ms Sturgeon said 4,565 Scots have now tested positive for Covid-19, an increase of 336.

A total of 1,771 people are in hospital and 210 in intensive care.

She warned it would be a "monumental mistake" to ease the coronavirus lockdown measures too early and said parents should not expect schools to reopen any time soon.

The Scottish Government has set aside £5 million to help university and college students who are struggling as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

Students will be able to apply to their institutions to access the money, which is being made available straight away.