SCOTLAND’S infection rate could be above 1 for the first time since the middle of November – less than a week before rules are relaxed over the festive period.

An analysis paper published by the Scottish Government has revealed that the reproduction rate, the R number, which is a figure of how many people each infected person passes the virus onto, “is currently estimated as being between 0.9 and 1.1”.

It adds: “The number of new daily infections for Scotland is estimated as being between 49 and 144, per 100,000 people.”

The report points out that during an eight-week period between September 9 and October 28, “R was greater than one”, which the experts say led to “exponential growth in infections”.

HeraldScotland: The estimated R number in ScotlandThe estimated R number in Scotland

Speaking at First Minister’s Questions, Nicola Sturgeon suggested the R number had “risen slightly”.

She added: “That underlines the importance of having taken a cautious approach to this week’s levels review and why we have reinforced our guidance to people ahead of the Christmas period.”

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She spoke as the latest Covid-19 figures for Scotland showed 30 deaths and 858 positive tests in the past 24 hours.

“The fact there is a window of opportunity over Christmas is a pragmatic recognition that some people may not be willing to leave loved ones alone and therefore it is an attempt to put some risk-reducing boundaries around that,” she said.

“Let me reiterate that our clear advice is the safest way to spend Christmas this year is to stay within our own homes and households, and to keep any interaction with other households outdoors.

“We now have a real prospect of vaccination within weeks for many and within months for most. All of us should therefore do all we can to keep each other safe until then.”