First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said pupils in Scotland will not return to school until 11 January and learning will remain online only until “at least 18 January”.

She said there was no suggestion that transmission had become a greater problem in schools, but the delay to reopening schools in January was “necessitated” by the latest developments around the new coronavirus variant.

“We are determined, if at all possible, to get schools back to normal from 18 January,” she said.

Scotland’s interim chief medical officer Dr Gregor Smith added there was no clear signal to say children were any more likely to transmit the new variant than any other age group.

He said the decision on temporary school closures was a “precautionary approach” to limit the opportunity for the spread of the new variant.