New modelling from the Scottish Government’s scientific advisers show that the region is the most likely council area in Scotland to record more than 300 cases per 100,000 people in the week following Christmas.
There is also a 50 per cent chance the region will record more than 500 cases per 100,000 people during the period between January 3 and January 9.
This would potentially dwarf the highest recorded figures for this statistic during the pandemic, a record unfortunately held by South Lanarkshire which saw cases rocket to a peak of 394.7 per 100,000 during October.
However, those numbers were during the peak of the second wave of the virus and prior to the announcement from the UK and Scottish Government of a new “highly transmissable” strain of Covid-19 believed to be up to 70 per cent more contagious.
That strain is already causing havoc in south east England and fears around the variant led Nicola Sturgeon to announce an effective lockdown for mainland Scotland from a minute past midnight on Boxing Day.
All of mainland Scotland will enter level four with only Orkney, Shetland, the Western Isles and other selected islands in level three.
The new strain already accounts for around 40 per cent of new cases in Scotland, more than doubling from 14 per cent the week before, a bombshell Scottish Government report stated, and could rip through areas with high prevalence such as East Lothian.
West Lothian and Aberdeen are the other areas worrying experts with both council areas modelled to have a 66 per cent probability of recording more than 300 cases per 100,000 people, with that dropping to 41 per cent for more than 500 cases per 100,000 people.
The Scottish Government has warned that the current level restrictions due to be imposed on Scotland from Boxing Day may not be strict enough to effectively stop the spread of the new strain of the virus.
It could see the closure of schools – already announced until January 18 – extended further and a return to nationwide lockdown.
National clinical director Jason Leitch blamed high figures in East Lothian on the close proximity between areas of East Lothian and the city of Edinburgh.
He said: “Much of the positive cases are on the border with Edinburgh city and as you move further east the cases reduce.
"That is, of course, to do with mixing around local authorities, it is to do with travel, to do with commuting, it is to do with where people shop, where people go for childcare, where people go for hospitality.”
A spokesman for East Lothian Council said: “Rather than being a prediction, the modelling sets out possible scenarios but it should be stressed that the recently-announced change to the protection level status of East Lothian and other areas – focused on reducing virus prevalence – has not been taken into account.
“Over a number of months across Scotland, there have been changes to the areas with the highest infection rates. This variability, and the recent rise in positive cases being reported locally, highlights the stark reality that the virus continues to present a hugely significant risk to public health.”