The First Minister told MSPs the “severity of the threat posed by the new variant” of the virus meant that tough restrictions would remain in place across Scotland,
Speaking in Holyrood, Ms Sturgeon said: "Analysis done by Public Health Scotland shows that, yesterday, 42.8 per cent of positive tests processed for Scotland in the Lighthouse labs had the S gene drop out that is indicative of the new strain.
“That is higher than the 38 per cent suggested by ONS [Office of National Statistics] analysis for the week beginning December 14. And that in turn compares to just 6 per cent at the end of November.”
She added: “So this new strain appears to be fast becoming the dominant one in Scotland. And that is obviously a cause for real concern – given that it is thought to be significantly more transmissible.
“As I indicated before Christmas, the severity of this challenge means we can’t rule out the need for restrictions even tighter than the current level four. But we continue to assess the situation carefully and will keep Parliament updated should any changes be required over the remainder of the festive period."
Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said the increase in cases and spread of new variant needed “clear and rigorous control measures” and raised the issue of teachers needing to be vaccinated as a priority.
Ms Sturgeon said: “We do face a severe situation given the new strain, that it’s becoming the dominant strain and it spreads so quickly, that's why we took very cautious and precautionary action.
"It's not that long ago Richard Leonard was urging me to reduce restrictions in Edinburgh and an article he wrote just yesterday suggested we open pubs again. It's really important we don't follow that kind of advice and we take cautious and sensible action to prevent this virus spreading further and more quickly than it's doing.
“On vaccination it's not politicians and governments that decide the order of priority for vaccination, we accept recommendations from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation. They're the experts who decide the order of priority.”