NICOLA Sturgeon is not actively considering strengthening Scotland’s social distancing rule to three metres – despite calls from scientific experts to consider the move.

Experts have suggested that the bigger the distance, the better, as it allows more space for any virus expelled by people to be dispersed. But Scotland’s national clinical director has stressed that the current rules are thought to be as effective for the new more transmissible strain of Covid-19.

Professor Lawrence Young, virologist and professor of molecular oncology at the University of Warwick, said the new coronavirus variant may be reason enough to consider increasing the distance.

He said: “For me that should form the rationale for this – to say, actually what we’ve got at the moment is a much more infectious virus.

“We know it’s clearly more transmissible, so you’re more likely to get infected with it than with the previous variant of the virus.

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“Although it’s not been confirmed, I think it is looking very much like people who are infected – including asymptomatic people who are infected – make more of the virus so it’s even more of a reason for being really careful about social distancing, about hand washing, and about the use of face masks.”

The First Minister was asked about the proposal at her daily coronavirus briefing.

She said: “We’ve not had a specific discussion about whether we are going to go from two metres to three metres, so in that sense, it is not something that is on our immediate radar – it's certainly not under active consideration right now.

“The caveat I always inject to these answers though is that we are always open-minded to anything that the science and the evidence tells us we’ve got to do and if we did, would be effective in reducing transmission.”

Professor Jason Leitch, Scotland’s national clinical director, said that the current rules are believed to be enough protection to mitigate the spread of the new strain of the virus.

He said: “The consensus from Sage and the consensus from our own advisory group is this new variant of the new virus is as susceptible to the distancing and the face coverings and the alcohol gel that the old variant is susceptible to.

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“Therefore, the advice to the general public remains the same. My understanding is a Sage scientist suggested somewhere in the media that perhaps we might have to think about moving to slightly different versions of that – that's a completely legitimate thing to investigate and we have expert groups looking at it all the time.

“The new variant makes that slightly more urgent for us to be sure – everything we see suggests as long as you don’t drop your guard, the same things work – but you mustn’t drop your guard.”