One of Scotland’s top medics has warned "the virus doesn't care if it's Christmas".

Speaking on the Health and Social Care Committee and Science and Technology Committee, Professor Devi Sridhar acknowledged people's desire to hear "reassuring messages" at Christmas time - but warned that a "pandemic Christmas" is still necessary.

She said: “The problem is right now people emotionally want to hear reassuring messages, they wanted to hear it over the summer that there would be no second wave, and they want to hear it now that Christmas will be normal.

"I have to speak bluntly, the virus doesn’t care if it’s Christmas, we still have pretty high prevalence across the country, it is risky for people to mix indoors, with alcohol, with elderly relatives at this point in time.

However, The Chair of Global Public Health at Edinburgh University added that the recent vaccine breakthroughs mean that the UK could be in a "fundamentally different position" in March, as she shared reasons to be optimistic about Covid-19 progress.

"My message to people would be that we have three really exciting vaccines on the horizon" she continued. "We have mass testing coming on board, we have new therapeutics meaning if you get Covid today you are much more likely to survive than six months ago.

"There is a glimmer of hope, by March we’ll be in a fundamentally different position than now and so perhaps this Christmas will be different, it doesn’t mean Christmas is cancelled, it’s a pandemic Christmas.

"Every part of the world is suffering or under some kind of restrictions one way or the other.

“Just because it’s Christmas doesn’t mean the virus is any less risky.”

Prof Sridhar also answered questions on the UK Government's response to the threat of Covid-19 throughout the pandemic.

She said it was "clear to see" that the UK had a much higher level of coronavirus-related deaths than many other countries, which she believes comes down to the early decision to treat the pandemic like a "flu-like event that would pass through the population" rather than a 'Sars-like event'" - which is what East Asian countries have done, as well as Australia, New Zealand and other European countries such as Norway, Finland and Denmark. 

She added that it felt like the UK was too late in using border measures and travel restrictions to catch cases on entry; that testing is improving but low compliance with isolation undermines it; and communications with the public have not been clear enough.

She also affirmed that the consensus was the UK locked down too late, which she said was caused by a false dichotomy between health and the economy, whereas countries that chose to suppress community transmission with early, strict measures have had stronger economic recoveries.

Speaking on mass testing, Prof Sridhar said progress has been "fantastic".

She said: "I think it’s fantastic that we’ve moved from debates around does testing matter even for health workers to actually community testing and now to mass testing as a way of lifting harsher more draconian lockdown restrictions, so I think it’s definitely a positive step.

"But it’s how we actually use these tests and what the ultimate strategy is, because this virus will keep spreading as long as you don’t have a sustainable suppression strategy.

"I think it’s great that we’re moving in the direction of testing, but it’s not a silver bullet on its own, it has to be part of a package of measures to suppress this virus."

She also stated that contrary to popular belief it is not the restrictions harming the economy in the long-term, but the virus itself.

She said: "It might not seem that way but it’s not the restrictions themselves that are killing the economy in the long-term, it is the virus because it changes people’s behaviour, it changes firms’ activities, and how people want to travel, how they want to move, how they want to consume."