NICOLA Sturgeon has asked people to take lateral flow tests every time they head out to socialise or do their shopping in the run up to Christmas.

To date the Government has been advising Scots to take lateral flow tests routinely twice a week but in a statement to Holyrood the First Minister called on people to do these tests more often.

"Over the festive period, we are asking for extra effort - and so this next request is vitally important," she told MSPs.

"On any occasion that you are socialising with others - whether that is going out for drinks or dinner, visiting someone at home, or even going shopping somewhere that might be crowded - please take a test before you go. And if it is positive, do not go. Instead get a PCR test and self isolate while you wait for the result."

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon update: Covid vaccine passport scheme will not be extended

She added: "This way, you are minimising the risk of inadvertently passing the virus on even if you don’t have symptoms. Also, please continue to wear face coverings on public transport, in shops and when moving around in hospitality settings. This remains a legal requirement.

"But it is also a vital protection - a study published last week suggested that face coverings may reduce the risk of transmission by over 50%."

Earlier in her statement the First Minister said getting vaccinated and tested before meeting loved ones is the “most precious gift” that can be given this Christmas.

Updating MSPs, she said: “If you are meeting up with loved ones and you are not as fully vaccinated as you could be, you are putting them at unnecessary risk. To be blunt, you could be putting their lives in danger.

"The most precious gift we can give anyone this Christmas is to be vaccinated – and also tested, which I’ll say more about shortly – before we meet, hug or spend time with them.

READ MORE: Are we seeing the beginning of the end of Prime Minister Boris Johnson?

“So, if you haven’t had a first or second dose yet, it’s not too late – please do so now.”

In a surprise development the First Minster did not announce an extension to the vaccine passport scheme top pubs and cinemas despite public health experts calling for it be widened.

She said the decision by her Cabinet had been a "very, very finely balanced decision" due to the "precarious" position with current levels of Covid infections. However, the certification scheme presently in place will last for at least another three weeks.

She said the extension of the scheme would “not be proportionate”, given its impact on businesses.

“This was a very finely balanced decision,” she said.

“However, I can confirm that at this stage we have decided not to extend the scope of the scheme.

“We have taken account of the fact that – although our situation is precarious – cases are currently stable and indeed slightly declining; and we have considered the inevitable impact vaccine certification has on the operation of businesses; and concluded that, at this stage, extension would not be proportionate.

“We were also mindful of the need over the coming weeks of getting across the message that it is important to be vaccinated and tested ahead of socialising in any setting – including in homes and shopping centres, for example – not just in those that might be covered by a certification scheme.”

From December 6, the First Minister said, proof of a negative lateral flow will also be used to access nightclubs or large events, rather than the use of a vaccine passport.