As many as 50,000 people in Scotland could be infected with coronavirus, it has been claimed, as the number of deaths from the disease rose to 25.
Chief medical officer Dr Catherine Calderwood said the official total for the number of people who have tested positive for Covid-19 is a “very significant underestimate”
Figures on Thursday show 894 people in Scotland are now confirmed as having coronavirus, a jump of 175 from the previous day’s total of 719.
The number of deaths among Covid-19 patients has risen by three from 22 on Wednesday.
Dr Calderwood warned: “This is a very significant underestimate of the number of cases in Scotland.
“We’re probably looking at the order of 40,000 to 50,000 people in Scotland who are now infected with coronavirus.”
She added: “Many of them don’t yet know that they are infected nor indeed do they realise they are potentially going to infect those around them.”
While she said it has been very encouraging to see empty streets and empty shops, she said the fight against the disease was “going to be a long haul”.
There are currently 57 coronavirus patients who are being treated in intensive care units across the country, up six from Wednesday.
It has been announced 1.5 million face masks are to be made available to health staff after independent testing showed these are safe to use despite being past their expiry dates.
“They have now undergone extensive testing, which has shown them to be fit for use,” First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said.
She added new regulations will come into force as early as Thursday, giving police the powers to impose social distancing measures introduced earlier this week as Scotland went on lockdown.
If people do not comply with these they could be “liable to an on-the-spot fine and, ultimately, if necessary, prosecuted”, the Ms Sturgeon said.
She stressed she hoped they will not have to be used, adding: “They are there to make sure we can ensure the right things are done to help us delay the spread of the virus.
“I completely recognise how unusual and out of character these regulations are.”
The First Minister added: “Ultimately this is about saving lives.
“This will get harder with every day that passes, to stay at home and to follow all the advice, but it remains essential that we all do so.”
Update on #coronavirus testing— Scottish Government (@scotgov) March 26, 2020
As of 2pm today 11487 Scottish tests have concluded
10593 confirmed negative
25 patients who tested positive have sadly died.
Our latest update â¡ï¸ https://t.co/kZjGNz2EDe
Health advice â¡ï¸ https://t.co/l7rqArB6Qu#COVIDã¼19 pic.twitter.com/yJJlLfGcxN
Dr Calderwood warned the public not to become more relaxed about sticking to the rules as the weekend approaches.
She stressed: “Confining yourself to your own household, not mixing with other people who then are mixing with others, is so key and so important.”
The chief medical officer said Scotland is behind “particularly London but also other parts of England” in the number of cases of Covid-19 and the pressure that is placing on the NHS.
She said Scotland “perhaps” put measures in place at an earlier stage, adding: “What we hope is therefore that rapid acceleration that we have talked about is perhaps not as rapid as has been seen in other parts of the country.”