Scotland bans mass gatherings of more than 500 people as coronavirus cases almost double to 60

Scotland has banned mass gatherings of more than 500 people and overseas school trips should not go ahead, as the number of coronavirus cases have almost doubled from 36 to 60.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Scotland had seen a "sharp spike" in cases and two cases of community transmission - when a person contracts the virus despite not having travelled to an affected area.

She recommended the cancellation of mass gatherings and advised schools to cancel oversea trips, but stopped short of closing schools.

“We will from the start of next week advise the cancellation of gatherings of more than 500 people," Ms Sturgeon said.

However she said the gatherings would be banned to ease pressure on the NHS rather than as an effective way of delaying the spread of Covid-19.

Large gatherings of more than 500 people that require police or paramedics, or could impact on the health service, will be cancelled from Monday, these include large football and rugby matches and concerts.

Scotland has 60 confirmed coronavirus cases. Credit: PA

Ms Sturgeon said: “We know that certain events have an impact on our policing and front-line health services, accident and emergency and ambulance services.

“Our health services in particular will be under acute pressure in the weeks and months to come and I think it incumbent on Government to do what we can to remove unnecessary burdens.”

But Scotland’s chief medical officer, argued banning mass gatherings was not a sensible measure.

Dr Catherine Calderwood said: “We know stopping mass gatherings is not the best way to stop the spread of the virus...the risks to individuals going to [the Rangers v Celtic] match this weekend is still relatively low.”

Ms Sturgeon was speaking following an emergency COBRA meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and said the UK has moved from 'contain' to 'delay phase' in the coronavirus pandemic.

The government's chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance warned up to 10,000 people in the UK could already be infected with coronavirus and people with even mild symptoms of coronavirus - a fever or persistent cough - are told to self-isolate for seven days.

The Scottish Government is not recommending that schools or universities close but Ms Sturgeon said it would be "kept under constant review."

The move came as two more deaths were announced in British hospitals and the number of people who had tested positive for coronavirus reached almost 600.

The Scottish Government confirmed 60 cases in the latest figures released at 2pm on Thursday - 11 confirmed cases in the NHS Lothian area and 10 in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, with seven each in Grampian and Lanarkshire.

Six cases have been confirmed in Shetland, six in Forth Valley, four each in Tayside and Ayrshire and Arran, with three cases in Fife and two in the Borders.

Ms Sturgeon said from Friday if you have symptoms that are indicative of coronavirus you should stay at home and self-isolate for a period of seven days.

She said symptoms are a fever or a persistent cough and added if your symptoms deteriorate, you do not have to call your GP or NHS 24, but you should stay at home.