SCOTS will be ordered by law to stay at home except for essential reasons as Nicola Sturgeon put the country back into lockdown to halt a “steeply rising trend of infections”. 

The tougher rules for mainland Scotland will come into effect from midnight and will last for the entirely of January – with the First Minister warning she is “more concerned about the situation we face now than I have been at any time since March last year”. 

All schools on the mainland and the Scottish islands will remain closed until at least February 1 – meaning the “majority of pupils” will be taught remotely for the rest of January. 

In mainland Scotland, currently in tier 4 of the Scottish Government’s coronavirus framework, people are only allowed to leave their home for exercise, to buy food and medical supplies and for work that cannot be done at home. 

READ MORE: Coronavirus Scotland: Schools to remain shut until February

Ms Sturgeon said that the ‘stay at home’ message is so important that is has been placed into law as it was during the first lockdown last year, adding that “it will only be permissible to leave home for an essential purpose”. 

She added: “This will include, for example, caring responsibilities, essential shopping, exercise and being part of an extended household. 

“In addition, anyone who is able to work from home, must do so. It will only be a reasonable excuse to leave your home to go to work, if that work cannot be done from home.” 

The First Minister told MSPs at a recalled Holyrood on Monday that the measures were “similar to the lockdown of March last year”. 

READ MORE: Reaction: 'Relief' as Nicola Sturgeon announces full lockdown in Scotland from midnight

But a maximum of two people from two different households can still meet outdoors and there is no limit on the number of times people can leave home for exercise, unlike the first lockdown. 

From Friday, places of worship will be required to close for communal worship. A maximum of five people can attend weddings and civil partnerships and 20 for funerals. Wakes have been banned. 

Ms Sturgeon told MSPs that in the last week of December, the seven-day number of cases per 100,000 people in Scotland increased by 65 per cent from 136 to 225 per 100,000. 

The First Minister added that she expects hospital data, set to be published today, to show “the total number of Covid patients in hospitals is close to its April peak”. 

She added: “NHS Ayrshire and Arran is currently at 96 per cent of its Covid capacity, and three other health boards – Borders, Greater Glasgow & Clyde and Lanarkshire are above 60 per cent of their capacity. 

“We can expect to see significantly increased pressure on the NHS over the course of this month.” 

Ms Sturgeon stressed that “NHS services are coping”, but warned that “without further intervention, we could breach inpatient Covid capacity within three or four weeks”. 

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon's statement in full as Scots face stay-at-home lockdown

Vulnerable people previously told to shield during the first lockdown until August 1, will be told once again not to go to work if it cannot be done at home. 

Ms Sturgeon said: “If you were shielding and you cannot work from home, our clear advice now is that you should not go into work at all. 

“The Chief Medical Officer is writing to everyone who falls into this category, and his letter will count as a fit note for those who need it.” 

The First Minister announced that 1,905 new cases of the virus have been confirmed in the last 24-hour period.

The testing positivity rate is now at 15 per cent - while the World Health Organization has warned over anything above five per cent.

On Sunday, 2,464 new cases were confirmed over the last 24-hour period, an increase from Saturday’s 2,137 cases. A total of 2,539 new cases were confirmed on New Year’s Day and 2,622 on Hogmanay.