THE lockdown could need to last for another 12 weeks across the UK, one of the Scottish Government’s key Covid advisers has warned.

Professor Devi Sridhar, the chair of public health at Edinburgh University, said another three months of restrictions could be necessary given the prevalence of Covid-19.

Her comments came as deputy first minister John Swinney said the virus “doesn’t show much sign of abating to any extent” in Scotland.

He warned that further restriction could be necessary.

Speaking to Times Radio, professor Sridhar said there may be “no other choice” other than keeping the UK lockdown.

She said: “For me, it’s a three-phase strategy – first is right now, it’s crude, it’s catastrophic for the economy and for people’s mental health, but a lockdown.

“Get those numbers down, protect the NHS for the next 12 weeks.”

She added: “When we get into March and hopefully numbers are low again and we get into seasonal change, get your testing and tracing and your border measures in place to really suppress.

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“And then in the summer, instead of taking your foot off the gas and saying ‘let’s open up everything’, actually think ‘how do we prevent this winter from happening again? How do we actually protect that low prevalence, get emergency teams in place in case there are flare ups... go in, have a quick, sharp one-week lockdown and get your testing and tracing to clear the virus.”

She also warned that all four nations will see cases rise again in the summer months if test and trace systems, mass testing and support packages for people self-isolating are not put in place.

She told Times Radio: “We are not at the mercy of this virus where whatever it does we have to react. We can dictate how this evolves but we need a bit more agency in being more proactive and ahead of it instead of always behind it.”

Speaking to the BBC’s Sunday Politics Scotland, Swinney said the debate in the SNP Government had been over whether they were going “far enough”.

Swinney said Scotland recorded around 130 cases per 100,000 people on Boxing Day, but the figure shot up to 300 just 10 days later.

Despite the new measures put in place, Swinney said: “It doesn’t show much sign of abating to any extent.

“We’re seeing case numbers which are hovering around 2000 per day... so we’ve got an accelerating situation on our hands and we have to constantly review whether more restrictions are required.”

He added: “We remain open to considering further restrictions if they are necessary.”

The total number of deaths since the start of the pandemic – for people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – was 4968 as of yesterday.

Scotland recorded three deaths of coronavirus patients and 1877 new cases in the 24 hours prior to the update, according to official figures.