ONE of Nicola Sturgeon's key advisers on the Covid pandemic has warned COP26 could trigger the return of restrictions.

Professor Devi Sridhar said the climate summit would likely increase the spread of coronavirus in Scotland, putting further stress on the health service.

COP26, which will take place from October 31 to November 12, is expected to draw around 30,000 people to Glasgow, including world leaders such as US President Joe Biden.

HeraldScotland:

Scotland's health service is already under significant strain, with health boards and ambulance bosses seeking military assistance.

Ms Sridhar, professor of global public health at Edinburgh University, sits on the Scottish Government's Covid-19 Advisory Group. 

She was asked on Twitter: "Will #COP26 make #covid worse for Scotland? And increase the risk of further restrictions? Interested in your expert view on this!"

Ms Sridhar replied: "I could be wrong (and hope I am) but yes.

"A mass event (with major movement of people in & out) with an infectious virus will cause an increase in cases. While in the case of COVID will put stress on limited health services. Which triggers need for further restrictions."

Scottish Government advisor Professor Linda Bauld previously said holding a mass event while the virus is circulating is “risky”.

Scottish Labour's health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said: “Whilst not entirely surprising, it is nevertheless troubling to hear Professor Sridhar warn of a potential spike in cases as a result of COP26 taking place in Glasgow.

“Covid cases are already far too high and lives are being lost.

“If we are to prevent cases spiking, and the inevitable additional pressure that would put on our NHS, we need the SNP government to speed up the sluggish roll-out of the booster jab and ensure the NHS has surge capacity.

“It is not good enough to wait for cases to spike before taking action. The Health Secretary must act, and act now.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said: "We saw from the G7 in Cornwall that these major gatherings can bring with them a spike in Covid cases.  

“The Scottish Government should set out what proactive measures it is putting in place to enable NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and others to deal with any rise in cases associated with COP26. 

"With experts like Professor Sridhar already warning of the risk, there is no excuse for the Health Secretary to be taken by surprise. He should move to support our NHS now." 

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "We are working very closely with the UK Government and partners, including Glasgow City Council and Police Scotland, to deliver a safe, secure and successful COP26.

"Covid-19 continues to be closely monitored by all relevant agencies and we are working with the UK Government, Public Health Scotland and our partners in Glasgow to plan for the event and ensure appropriate mitigation measures are in place.

"As part of the code of conduct, delegates will be asked to adhere to enhanced Covid measures in the COP26 Blue Zone, such as 1m physical distancing and the wearing of face masks unless seated.

"All other national and local restrictions will continue to apply outside the Blue Zone. We have no current plans to introduce further restrictions. 

"It is important that everyone continues to follow public health guidance.

"This means taking lateral flow tests, attending vaccine appointments and taking common sense precautions such as regular hand washing to keep cases down.”