BANNING large public gatherings was the single most effective measure to reduce the spread of coronavirus, according to a new study.

Researchers at Edinburgh University analysed changes in the reproductive 'R' number of the virus in 131 countries following interventions including school and workplace closures, domestic and international travel bans, stay-at-home orders, public transport closures, public gathering bans, and bans on meetings of more than 10 people.

They found that banning public events resulted in the greatest reduction in R over a 28 day period.

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Scotland's R number is currently around 1.4, meaning every 100 people will pass it on to an average of 140 others.

However, outbreaks tend to be linked to much higher rates of transmission.

Writing in the journal, Lancet Infectious Diseases, the authors said the public events finding was "unsurprising".

They said: "A ban on crowded activities could prevent superspreading events, which were commonly reported at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Another explanation for the high reduction is that a ban on public events was often the first [measure] to be introduced in countries."

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They estimate that a "control strategy" of banning public events and gatherings of more than ten people correlates with a reduction in R of 29 per cent by day 28.

A more "extreme intervention", consisting of school and workplace closure, bans on public events and gatherings, requirements to stay at home, and limits on internal movement, could reduce R by 52% by day 28.

Closing schools alone could cut transmission by around 15%, depending on the 'Covid-safe' protocols used when schools were open.