DEPUTY First Minister John Swinney has indicated that issuing fines to the owners of a call centre subject to a Covid-19 outbreak “will be explored” – while warning people are becoming “slightly more relaxed” in their attitude to social distancing.

Yesterday, six coronavirus cases were reported at the Sitel call centre at the Eurocentral business part in North Lanarkshire where staff are currently working on test and trace cases for NHS England.

Nicola Sturgeon’s second in command stressed that the cluster of cases was of “serious concern”, with officials believing that transmission has taken place between staff members.

Mr Swinney was asked on BBC Good Morning Scotland if penalties could be issued against Sitel.

He said: “These are all issues that will be explored, but what our primary focus is on is to make sure that we interrupt any transmission of the virus.

"The virus is at a very low level within Scottish society today, the compliance efforts of members of the public have successfully reduced the prevalence of coronavirus, but we have to keep it that way."

READ MORE: Coronavirus outbreak at Sitel NHS call centre in Motherwell, North Lanarkshire

Mr Swinney added that actions being taken by NHS Lanarkshire and North Lanarkshire Council in response to the incident were "reassuring".

The outbreak was discovered on Sunday morning, with all members of staff asked to work from home and being offered a test for Covid-19.

Measures have been brought in by the region's health board to try to suppress the outbreak.

An NHS Test and Trace spokeswoman said: "We are aware of a local outbreak of Covid-19 at the Sitel site in Motherwell. This is being managed by Sitel and colleagues in NHS Lanarkshire, who are following appropriate test and protect action in line with Scottish Government advice.

"We take the safety and wellbeing of our staff very seriously. Everyone at the site is currently working from home while a deep clean takes place, and will be offered a test within the next 24 hours."

NHS Test and Trace is a service operated by the NHS in England to track and help prevent the spread of Covid-19 south of the border.

Earlier, Professor Hugh Pennington, emeritus professor of bacteriology at the University of Aberdeen, told the same programme: "I'm not surprised to hear about a cluster because that's the way this virus behaves; it's done that in all the other countries that we have good records for, that getting on for half the cases do occur in outbreaks and some of them can be quite big.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Scotland records highest increase of Covid-19 cases in almost a month

"This is clearly not a particular surprise that we have a cluster of cases in Scotland because we know the virus has not gone away, but it's a bit disappointing we've got these two days where we've got more than 20 cases because for quite a long time now we've been seeing most parts of Scotland recording no new cases at all."

He added that it is too early to tell whether the jump in cases is due to the easing of lockdown measures and said that carrying out more testing will also pick up more cases.

Figures released by the Scottish Government on Sunday showed Scotland recorded 23 new confirmed cases of coronavirus in 24 hours - the highest increase in almost a month - and up two from 21 on Saturday.

Sunday's figures marked five consecutive days with rising cases, up from three on Tuesday, although no further deaths of people who have tested positive for Covid-19 have been recorded, remaining at 2,491.

Mr Swinney has also warned that some people have become “slightly more relaxed” about their attitude to social distancing.

The Scottish Government and health officials have stressed that social distancing could arguably be more important than at the height of the lockdown in continuing to suppress the virus, with people now coming in closer contact with those from different households, including indoors situations where the virus can spread with more ease.

Following the first weekend of pubs, bars and restaurants reopening after four months of coronavirus-enforced lockdown, Mr Swinney urged the public to stick with social distancing measures to ensure transmission of the virus does not increase.

He said: "I think, when it comes to some of the other aspects of physical distancing, my sense is that people are becoming slightly more relaxed about physical distancing.

"I think we've got to watch that very carefully and I appeal to members of the public to keep following the physical distancing regulations that are in place, because that way we reduce the risk of connection and contact that can support transmission.

"If we do that, I think we contribute significantly to assisting the efforts that are under way."

READ MORE: EIS union joins calls for 'complete transparency' over schools re-opening evidence

While saying that some businesses had put measures in place to ensure physical distancing and reduce the chance of transmission of Covid-19, Mr Swinney urged Scots to "maintain our vigilance" to ensure transmission continues to drop.

Despite his warnings on distancing, he said the use of face coverings in shops and on public transport has increased to "extraordinarily high levels" since they were made mandatory.

Meanwhile, the Deputy First Minister, who is also the Education Secretary, said he is "at the front of the queue" of people wanting to see schools reopen fully on August 11, adding that it is "in the best interests of children and young people" to get back into the classroom.

However, Mr Swinney said that decision would be made based on the prevalence of the virus in Scotland.

He said: "I've been very clear since my statement to Parliament on June 23 that the safe reopening of schools full-time was predicated on us continuing our good work to suppress coronavirus."

Mr Swinney is due to update MSPs on the Scottish Government’s plans to re-open schools in a statement later this week.