NICOLA Sturgeon warned that Scots are in “danger of dropping our guard”, after the number of new Covid cases exceeded 20 for the third time in four days.

The First Minister said it was more important than ever for everyone to follow rules on hygiene, physical distancing, and wearing facemasks as indoor gatherings increase.

However, she said residents in Lanarkshire “need to be extra vigilant” after an outbreak at a call centre in the Eurocentral business park near Motherwell, where 14 positive cases have now been detected.

A further five have cases have been identified among people linked to employees at the site.

Of the 22 new Covid cases reported today, 14 were identified in Lanarkshire. Ms Sturgeon said some of these were “likely to be connected to the outbreak at Sitel call centre”.

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The premises carries out contact tracing for NHS England’s coronavirus Test and Trace scheme.

On Monday, the Railway Tavern - a pub in Motherwell - closed for deep cleaning after a part-time member of staff was linked to the Sitel cluster.

Of the remaining cases, four were in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, two in Ayrshire and Arran, one in Fife and one in Lothian.

It comes after 21 cases were reported on Saturday and 23 on Sunday - the first time since June 21 that cases have topped 20.

There have been no deaths since July 16.

Ms Sturgeon said all the new cases were being "looked into" by public health teams for signs of clusters or patterns, but stressed that despite higher numbers in recent days the overall level of the virus in the population remains low.

"It remains our objective to effectively eliminate Covid in Scotland," said the First Minister.

She urged Scots to "take stock" as ask whether their own behaviour recently could have increased the risk of transmission.

She said: "I think we're all conscious that as life starts to feel a bit more normal than it has for months, there is a danger of dropping our guard.

"I think we should all stop right now and ask ourselves if we have been dropping our guard, and if the evidence is there in our own behaviour we should all resolve to tighten up again."

Ms Sturgeon urged the public to wear face coverings in shops and on public transport, to remain two metres apart from others, and to regularly wash their hands and disinfect hard surfaces indoors.

"These things are more important now, not less important, as we are going out more to shops and restaurants, as we meet each other more indoors," said Ms Sturgeon.

"This is a moment for all of us across the country to take stock, to ask ourselves if our behaviour has eased up a little too much in recent days and to resolve to follow all this advice so that we do not see this virus running out of control again."

Her comments were echoed by Professor Devi Sridhar, chair of global public health at Edinburgh University and one of the Scottish Government's scientific advisers on Covid.

The academic tweeted that she was "slightly worried that complacency is setting in", adding: "Fewer people with masks in shops and cafes, people not keeping distance and crowding inside and forgetting that virus is still around.

"We can all do our part to keep numbers low and avoid a second wave and second lockdown. It can all go backwards."

The reopening of pubs, restaurants, and hairdressers last week, and nail bars and beauty salons from tomorrow, coupled with recent increases in the number of people from different households allowed to meet up indoors is seen as particularly risky.

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Just 0.3 per cent of Covid outbreaks globally have been linked to outdoor transmission.

Meanwhile, chief medical officer Dr Gregor Smith announced that Covid testing will be extended to children under five and infants from tomorrow [Wed].

Until now, under fives were only tested in hospitals when there was "clear clinical need".

Child-to-child or child-to-adult transmission is rare worldwide. Statistics for England and Wales show that there has been just one Covid death for every 2.5 million school age children, compared to one in 51 among those aged 90 or older.

However, Dr Smith said the move would prevent families having to isolate at home needlessly.

He said: "Recent reopening of early learning and childcare settings, along with the change in physical distancing guidance for children under 11 means that our youngest children are now able to mix more.

"As this happens, and as we approach the autumn and winter months, it will be important to know if a young child's symptoms are caused by Covid 19 or not.

"We want to avoid households having to isolate for prolonged periods unnecessarily if young children and their family are displaying Covid-like symptoms, but do not have Covid-19, as these symptoms can be common in this age group."

Ms Sturgeon also confirmed that, from tomorrow, statistics on hospital and intensive care admissions will be limited to those patients confirmed to have Covid to give a "more accurate picture of the situation".

She said the numbers of suspected cases were being distorted by the inclusion of any hospital patients tested for the virus, regardless of symptoms.

Over 70s are now routinely tested for Covid on admission and again at four-day intervals.