Nicola Sturgeon has said “preventative action may be necessary” to halt the spread of the variant strain of Covid.

Confirming that she would be charing a Scottish Cabinet meeting this afternoon, the First Minister tweeted: “Following a 4 nations Covid call earlier, I’ll chair @scotgov Cabinet meeting this afternoon to discuss emerging evidence on new variant.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon to hold conference over new variant of coronavirus 

“Cases currently at lower level in Scotland than UK – but preventative action may be necessary to stop faster spreading strain taking hold.”

READ MORE: Boris Johnson to hold press conference amid rising infection rates in England

Scotland has the lowest case rate in the UK, with 112.6 cases per 100,000 of the population.

This compares to 571.7 in Wales, 219.6 in England and 174.9 in Northern Ireland.

In the past 24 hours, 41 deaths from coronavirus and 572 positive tests have been recorded north of the border, though the test positivity rate fell from 4.2% to 4.0%.

Both Scotland’s Health Secretary Jeane Freeman and Deputy First Minister John Swinney have refused in recent days to rule out a post-Christmas lockdown.

Ms Freeman said on Friday that “every possible option remains on the table” while Mr Swinney said on Thursday that the Scottish Government will “take decisions that will be sustainable for a period into January and February to protect the public interest”.

Scotland has five tiers of coronavirus restrictions, with the majority of the country currently in Level 3 – the second highest.

A review of the levels is due to take place on Tuesday.

It comes as Boris Johnson is expected to address the nation at a press conference at 4pm following a second variant of Covid - which is spreading at a faster rate. 

READ MORE: Coronavirus Scotland: 572 new Covid cases in 24 hours with 41 new deaths

Professor Chris Whitty, chief medical officer for England, said the UK has informed the World Health Organisation that the new variant coronavirus can spread more rapidly.

“As announced on Monday, the UK has identified a new variant of Covid-19 through Public Health England’s genomic surveillance,” he said in a statement.

“As a result of the rapid spread of the new variant, preliminary modelling data and rapidly rising incidence rates in the South East, the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG) now consider that the new strain can spread more quickly.

READ MORE: Scotland's virus numbers are already climbing with a week left until Christmas 

“We have alerted the World Health Organisation and are continuing to analyse the available data to improve our understanding.

“There is no current evidence to suggest the new strain causes a higher mortality rate or that it affects vaccines and treatments, although urgent work is under way to confirm this.

“Given this latest development, it is now more vital than ever that the public continue to take action in their area to reduce transmission.”