Nicola Sturgeon said the increase in Covid-19 cases at Glasgow University will rise but it shows the test and protect system is working.

The First Minister was challenged by opposition leaders in Holyrood whether the outbreaks in halls of residences in Scotland’s main cities should have been foreseen and prevented.

She said that it was decided, that like schools returning, it was important for colleges and universities to return too.

Ms Sturgeon said testing has been increased at the university and students are being supported.

Announcing another 219 cases in Glasgow the First Minister said, for the second day in a row, it reflected an outbreak at Glasgow University student accommodation.

Ms Sturgeon said: “It can be difficult for people to grasp, but the fact that a number of positive cases have been identified, I agree that we expect that number to increase, and that a number of students are being asked to isolate, shows that test and protect is working.

“There is more that we can do to prevent cases, but nevertheless, the essence of test and protect is making sure that when people have symptoms, they are tested, and students are being tested, they are identified if they are positive and advice is given to their contacts to isolate.

“That is difficult when numbers are as they are, but it shows that that system is working and we must continue to have confidence in that.”

The First Minister said a second walk in testing centre will be opened in Glasgow next week to add to one at Glasgow Caledonian University and that a mobile testing unit is already in place at Murano Street halls where one of the outbreaks is.

“For example, yesterday the Glasgow walk-in centre tested almost 300 students and still had some capacity at the end of the day. We continue to make sure that the right things are done, and I give an assurance that testing capacity is available and is being accessed and utilised.”

Partick Harvie, Green MSP for Glasgow the outbreaks should have been expected and support and testing sites should have been in place before the term started.

He said: “Many of those students will be first-year students away from home for the first time, excited about their new life at university.

“It is heartbreaking that they are now cooped up and coping with this new anxiety. They need their universities and the Government to ensure that they get the support that they need.”

Richard Leonard, Labour leader said many were living away form home for the first time without their usual support networks.

He said: “What is the First Minister planning in order to avoid students either being confined in accommodation away from their families over Christmas or returning home with the fear and real risk that they are spreading Covid-19 to their friends and families back home?”

Ms Sturgeon said :” Talking about things such as students not being allowed to go home for Christmas is not helping anybody. We all have to work to ensure that we deal with this infectious virusin the best way possible. I wish more than anything else that I could snap my fingers and make it go away, but I cannot. It is a global pandemic and we need to deal with it properly and systematically, with all of us playing our part.”