The new Covid strain is becoming the most dominant one in Scotland.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon revealed that lab analysis had shown that 42.8% of new positive covid cases had aspects of the new strain.
This is higher than the 38% analysis by the Office of National Statistics for the week beginning December 14.
The figure was just 6% at the end of November.
She said: “Analysis done by Public Health Scotland shows that yesterday 42.8% of positive tests processed for Scotland in the Lighthouse labs had the S gene drop out that is indicative of the new strain.
“This new strain appears to be fast becoming the dominant one which is a cause for concern as it is significantly more transmissible.”
Because of this, “even tougher restrictions cannot be ruled out.”
During her statement to parliament, the first minister reported the latest daily figures, with 2,045 new cases reported in the last 24 hours.
This is the highest number recorded since the start of the pandemic.
There have also been 43 more recorded deaths.
Ms Sturgeon said: “This is obviously significant and demonstrates the severity of the situation we face right now.”
Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine
The first minister called the approval of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine “extremely good news.”
She also confirmed that Scotland will begin vaccinating people with it on Monday.
More than 92,000 people in the country have now received their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine.
She added: “The recommendation is now that a second dose of both vaccines can be given up to 12 weeks after the first which means more people can be vaccinated more quickly.”
Return of schools
Arrangements for the return of schools are also under ongoing review, with the government assessing if the plan to reopen on January 18 will go ahead.
She says they will continue to put the safety of pupils and staff first.
To conclude, Ms Sturgeon said: “The severity of this challenge means we simply cannot rule out restrictions that are even tighter than those in the current level four.
“We continue to assess the situation carefully on a daily basis and will keep parliament updated should changed be required over the remainder of the festive period.”