Nicola Sturgeon has warned she is prepared to follow Boris Johnson by cutting the number of Scots allowed to meet despite experts warning of dwindling public tolerance for Covid-19 restrictions.
The First Minister said the average number of daily positive cases has trebled from three weeks ago and the country is "currently at a very dangerous point".
Speaking ahead of Thursday's three-weekly review of her lockdown exit plan, she said she was "carefully" reexamining existing guidance on gatherings after the Prime Minister confirmed they will be limited to six people in England.
In a major crackdown to quash rising virus rates, Mr Johnson said 'Covid-secure marshals’ are to be introduced in England's town and city centres to enforce social distancing.
But the Prime Minister warned Britons to prepare for the cancellation of large family gatherings at Christmas, arguing it was "too early to say" where the UK will be.
Up to eight Scots from three households are currently allowed to meet indoors, increasing to 15 people from five households outdoors.
But indoor gatherings, including house parties and smaller family meetings, have been blamed for the number of cases north of the Border surging to a four-month high.
More than a million Scots in the west of Scotland are now banned from visiting other households after Ms Sturgeon this week extended the restrictions to a further two local authority areas.
The First Minister also warned she is ready to reimpose "blunter" lockdown restrictions, including the blanket closure of pubs and restaurants, if the number of cases continues to spiral.
She has all but confirmed that she will not go ahead with the planned reopening of theatres and concert halls in today's review, while the phased return of football crowds from Monday is likely to be postponed.
But her new threat to cut the number of people who can meet came as one of Scotland's most eminent public health experts warned public support for lockdown is on a "downward gradient."
Prof Linda Bauld, of Edinburgh University, said public support has been higher north than south of the Border but it was declining. She added: "I’m very, very concerned about the next few months and the potential for unrest."
Speaking at her daily briefing, Ms Sturgeon said: “We cannot rule out the need to make changes to the number of people allowed to gather together like those made announced for England last night.
“We are carefully reviewing existing guidance and regulation, as well as considering what new steps may be necessary to keep Covid under control."
She said the average daily number of cases has tripled from 52 three weeks ago to 155 over the past week. A further 159 were recorded on Wednesday.
Although no new fatalities were reported, she said the increase in cases "could continue and translate into serious illness and death if we are not very careful".
Ms Sturgeon acknowledged the ongoing restrictions are "a pain in the neck", but argued they were "less cumbersome" than her government having to implement another full lockdown.
But Prof Bauld told Holyrood's Covid-19 committee: "I am very, very, very concerned about the next few months and potential unrest.
"We're seeing it globally around the world: groups that are spreading misinformation, but also just gathering - as we have already seen in Scotland - to express distaste or distrust in the messaging and in the guidance that has been given.
"I think that we're going to have to be very careful to keep on top of that because history shows that following pandemics - and there is research on this - there is social unrest and we need to be conversant about that."
She encouraged "nuanced messaging" to target different groups within society, pointing out that support and compliance for the government's measures is lower among men and young people.
A third more deaths (18,201) were registered between April-June 2020 compared with the 5 year average, our figures published today show. #COVID-19 was underlying cause in 3,739 deaths: 83% of the 4,515 excess deaths compared to 5 year average.
https://t.co/xuon49PEDD #NRSStats pic.twitter.com/pInPxkDYH4
— NatRecordsScot (@NatRecordsScot) September 9, 2020
Meanwhile, the National Records of Scotland (NRS) yesterday reported that deaths rose by a third between April and June, the first three months of lockdown, with 83 per cent attributed to the virus.
The total of 18,201 deaths was 4,515 above the average for the previous five years, with Covid-19 the underlying cause in 3,739.
Deaths from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease increased by 24.5 per cent, diabetes was up by 26.2 per cent, and deaths from diseases of the genitourinary system increased by 22.5 per cent.
However deaths from transport accidents fell by 69.1 per cent during lockdown and fatalities from respiratory diseases dropped by 20.6 per cent.