SCOTLAND came close to eliminating coronavirus during lockdown before new strains were introduced as the country opened up and people began travelling again, an expert report has found. 

Jason Leitch, Scotland's National Clinical Director, said new strains were imported as people travelled across the UK and abroad on summer holidays.

The new report found the majority of strains associated with the second wave of the virus "are new introductions from outside of Scotland and many from outside of the UK".

It said: "This indicates that, while lockdown in Scotland is directly linked with the first wave case numbers being brought under control, travel-associated imports (mostly from Europe or other parts of the UK) following the easing of lockdown are responsible for seeding the current epidemic population."

The new report was submitted to the UK Government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) by members of the COG-UK Consortium.

Referencing it during the Scottish Government's coronavirus briefing, Mr Leitch said around 300 different strains of Covid were introduced across Scotland at the start of the pandemic. 

Following the first lockdown, the majority of the virus strains that had been circulating were eliminated.

He said: "This report allows us to say that the lockdown in the first part of the year, that you all played such a huge part in, did get Scotland incredibly close to eliminating the virus in our communities.

"But as we opened up, inevitably, people began to travel across the UK, internationally on summer holidays and other travel abroad, new strains were imported again into Scotland.

"That will always be the case, unless a country restricts travel to the extent that countries such as New Zealand and Australia have done."

Mr Leitch said the report showed the first lockdown was successful, that travel brought fresh new strains of the virus, and that the virus is much more likely to spread in areas of high population density. 

He added: "So as we bring the virus back under control again this time, these learning points help us with our future advice and politicians with their decision-making."

He said the report also provides a "cautionary tale" to those who are considering travelling over the Christmas period. 

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said travel "reseeded" the virus.

She said: "If you read this genomic sequencing report, it would not be an unreasonable conclusion to say we should have been much, much tougher on travel restrictions earlier in the year."

The COG-UK Consortium also submitted a report on Wales with similar findings.