NICOLA Sturgeon has warned tighter Covid restrictions are now likely from next week as the country faces the risk of an explosive growth in infections.

The First Minister said Scotland may be on the same deadly trajectory as France, with cases raising “quite rapidly”, including amongst the elderly.

She said this weekend would be “critical” in determining the next steps, and gave Scotland "advance notice" that more national restrictions would be needed.

She said it was as significant a moment as the country faced on the eve of the first lockdown in March.

She said: “The coming days are likely to see some hard but necessary decisions. If we want to avoid another full-scale lockdown, doing nothing is almost certainly not an option."

She likened the coming changes to a "circuit breaker" or "fire break" designed to interrupt the spread of the virus, and ultimately reverse what she called a "deteriorating situation".

She stressed she was not contemplating a return to the full-lock seen at the start of the pandemic, but changes designed to prevent a return to that.

The First Minister said she had asked Boris Johnson to convene a meeting of the UK-wide Cobra emergency group this weekend to discuss the worsening picture.

Ms Sturgeon said Scotland appeared around four weeks behind France, which is now seeing 10,000 cases per day, but if steps were taken now that outcome could be averted.

She said: “We are facing the risk again of exponential growth in Covid.

"The bottom line here is this virus is on the rise again. Cases are rising quite rapidly. The percentage of tests is not as high as March but is rising. And the R number is now above 1.

"The virus could get out of our grip again - but it hasn't happened yet and we have time to prevent it from happening.

"That is down to the government and all of us."

She added: "We are in a very, very critical stage of this."

National Clinical Director Jason Leith said the "principle risk" came from "household mixing", suggesting further restrictions would clamp down on socialising between families.

He said the current data was flashing "at least amber", and the task was to stop it reaching red.

A new "rule of six" only started on Monday banning meetings of more than six people from two households, excuding under-12s.

Ms Sturgeon said she would update the position next Monday.

At the daily briefing, Ms Sturgeon announced the number of coronavirus tests coming back positive in Scotland had risen closer to the World Health Organisation’s danger level.

She said 4.4 per cent of overnight tests had shown an infection, up from 4% a day before.

WHO says a positivity rate of 5% indicates Covid may be spiralling out of control. 

She reported another 203 cases overnight, fewer than the 290 reported on Thursday, but said there were delays in the testing system. 

There was also one more death overnight.

Ms Sturgeon also said up to 15,000 randomly selected people in Scotland were to be tested every fortnight as part of a UK-wide Covid infection survey, with letters arriving from today.

Those taking part will do their own tests and some will be asked to provide blood samples.

The tests will continue for up to a year and will help scientists see how many people are infected with the virus over time and how many people will ultimately have the infection.

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross said every available option should be on the table.

Mr Ross said: "We have seen the issues that we have if we don’t get on top of it, and if we don’t make the difficult decisions to reimpose some restrictions

"So everything that has to be done must be done to ensure we don’t get a second wave of this pandemic that puts pressure on our hospitals and our NHS again.

"I support everything that can be done to support beating this terrible pandemic".