First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has appealed directly to students returning to universities across the country this afternoon, asking them to abide by the new restrictions on household gatherings, as Scotland recorded its highest ever number of new coronavirus infections.
Speaking at her daily briefing, Ms Sturgeon revealed that new cases in the country had lurched upwards, with 486 infections identified in the last 24 hours, bringing the total across Scotland to 25,495.
Two new deaths have also been reported, bringing the total death toll to 2,508.
The First Minister insisted that the latest infections were “in no way shape or form at the fault of students,” but added that “we do know that student life and the characteristics of student life present risks of transmitting the virus.”
Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish Government was discussing with university chiefs whether further steps that could be taken to prevent the spread of the virus on campuses.
“I want to be clear: if we need to strengthen our guidance, we will.
“We strengthened the guidance for schools after schools have been back for a few days… We will not hesitate to do that with the further and higher education guidance too.”
Ms Sturgeon said she wanted to appeal “directly to students”, thanking “the vast majority” who she said already comply with restrictions.
“If you had asked to self isolate, and I know many of you right now are already in that position, it is really, really important that you follow that advice, as we've seen in the past few days Covid can spread very quickly in shared living settings, and halls of residence.
“So please follow the rules on self isolation, take all the advice that is given and make sure you do it in the way that is asked.
“Also please observe all of the fact rules at all times, when you're going about your daily lives, and please abide by the new restrictions on household gatherings that we announced yesterday.
“They apply to students, just as they applied to the general population, even though, of course, your living arrangements are often different.
“Please know that we appreciate the sacrifices you are making this really important stage of your lives,” she added.
“It's not yesterday that I was at university but I still remember what an important stage of life,” Ms Sturgeon said, “and what we're asking you to do now is for the collective good of everyone - but we do appreciate your sacrifices and I want to thank you for it.”
Scotland’s clinical director Professor Jason Leitch also urged students to take four steps to stop the spread of the virus.
Prof Leitch asked those at university to follow the Facts guidance, download the Protect Scotland app, ensure they self-isolate if asked and not host or go to house parties.
The national clinical adviser said he spoke to Scotland’s student leaders on Tuesday to inform them of how they can support students.