NICOLA Sturgeon is to announce "further and urgent action" to curb the spread of coronavirus within 48 hours.

The First Minister said: "This is a serious moment for the country."

Additional lockdown measures were "almost certain" to be introduced in Scotland in the next "couple of days", she said.

She said expert discussions were still ongoing, but it was clear the virus was spreading "quite rapidly" across the country.

She said: "In my view further and urgent action will now be needed to stop the increase in the number of cases. 

"I and my advisers have spent the weekend immersed in discussion and analysis, looking at a variety of options and considering carefully the impact that we judge these would have. 

"These discussions are continuing throughout today, but we are very close to a point of decision."

However Ms Sturgeon stressed knowledge of the virus was far better than at the outset of the pandemic in the spring, and there was now a test and tracing system in place.

The futher restrictions would not be a return to a lockdown imposed in the spring, but an attempt to avoid that, she said.

She did not identify the new measures, but said they would be focused on the biggest risk of Covid spread, which was household to household transmission.

That could involve household gatherings and hospitality, she said.

The current rule is for gatherings to be limited to six people from two households, excluding children under 12.

Ms Sturgeon said Scots should be prepared to be "living in a way that is not entirely normal" for the next six months or so, but suggested restrictions could be reimposed and then eased.

Asked about Christmas, she said: "Christmas really matters to people, and we want it to be as normal as possible. 

"But we're in a global pandemic, and if I was to stand here right now and say categorically that certain things could or couldn't happen at Christmas, I wouldn't be being fair to people."

She added: "The only thing I can say with even a smidgen of certainty right now is that the more we collectively work together to bring it under control right now, perhaps the more prospect there will be of having some greater degree of normality at Christmas. 

"But even that is a statement that is shrouded in some caveat."

At the daily briefing, Ms Sturgeon said she would speak to Boris Johnson this lunchtime to discuss four nations alignment if possible.

She said she was willing to delay action to a degree to achieve a co-ordinated UK-wide response, but would bring in bespoke measures for Scotland if she considered that was necessary.

A UK-wide emergency Cobra meeting will be convened tomorrow morning.

The First Minister said "a package of measures" designed to reduce the R number, which is currently above 1, would be put before the Scottish cabinet tomorrow, and she would make a statement to Holyrood on Tuesday or Wednesday afternoon.

She said the public should expect the changes to take effect in the coming few days.

The new measures will include plans to better support those who are advised to self-isolate, particularly those on low incomes. 

Scottish ministers will also consider whether to follow the UK Government in imposing fines of up to £10,000 on those who flout self-isolation rules. 

Ms Sturgeon also announced another 255 cases had been confirmed overnight in Scotland, 10 more than reported on Sunday.

However the rate of tests with positive results rose again, from 5.4 to 6.3 per cent overnight, with higher rates in some health boards.

It means the Scottish positivity rate had been over 5% for three days running.

The World Health Organisation considers a 5% rate a red flag indicating the virus may be spreading out of control.

Positive cases have been recorded in every mainland health board area in Scotland, with 103 in Greater Glasgow and Clyde. 

The number of people in hospital with Covid in Scotland rose by 10 to 73 overnight. There were no recorded Covid deaths.

Interim chief medical officer Dr Gregor Smith said the number of Covid cases was now doubling every 7 to 9 days in Scotland.

The UK Government’s chief scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance this morning warned that the number of new Covid cases in the UK was now doubling roughly every seven days.

If left unchecked this could grow exponentially from around 3,100 today to almost 50,000 cases per day by mid-October, leading to around 200 deaths per day a month after that.

That meant changing course, with a focus on reducing social contacts. Ms Sturgeon said she endorsed that message. 

Around 5% of people in Scotland are estimated to have been infected with the virus, compared to just under 8% across the UK.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman this morning warned six months of restrictions was “more realistic” than a bloc of a few weeks.

Ms Sturgeon said people would have to live with Covid until the large-scale delivery of a vaccine, which was likely to be next year at the earliest.

That meant people should expect some form of restrictions for another six months, but these could loosen and tighten according to the prevailing circumstances.

The First Minister said the Scottish Government wants next year's exam diet to go ahead in schools, but the situation is "highly volatile, highly unpredictable and uncertain". 

She added: "Therefore any responsible government...has to have contingencies in place and has to continue to consider changing circumstances."