One of Nicola Sturgeon's key advisors on the pandemic has said that there is "worry" that the new Covid supervariant may be "already" in Scotland.

Professor Devi Sridhar told BBC’s Good Morning Scotland on Friday the new variant may already be in Scotland despite no cases being found yet through genomic sequencing with B.1.1.529.

The new strain of the virus has been found in South Africa, Botswana, Israel and Hong Kong, but no cases have yet been reported in the UK.

Little is known about the variant, but the four nations of the UK have taken the decision to add South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibia to the travel red list as a precaution.

Meanwhile Belgium became the first European Union country to announce a case of the variant.

Professor Sridhar said: “I think the worry is could it actually already be here.

"But we know sequencing is quite good in the UK, so hopefully they look back now, confirm cases, and will pick them up quite quickly.

“I don’t think we can stop importation fully. That’s the lesson, you can’t stop it, you can delay it and buy time, and that delay gives you more time to get boosters out to people and figure out your game plan.”

Earlier, speaking on ITV's Good Morning Britain, the Covid advisor said that people should not immediately worry as while Covid-19 continues to circulate we will hear about mutations. 

She said: "As long as the virus has a chance to circulate somewhere in the world it is going to keep having mutations, and at some point one of those mutations will have a selective advantage - being more transmissible, as we saw with Alpha and Delta, or being able to transmit among people who are fully vaccinated and make them ill.

"Hopefully it won't happen with this one but that's what we're worried about.

"I think it's to be expected, people shouldn't be worried, we will continue to hear about variants.”

She highlighted that the World Health Organisation will meet today to determine how concerning the variant is and what the recommendations will be following that.

She added: "I think you're going to see many countries going the way of Britain, and saying: 'We're not going to watch and wait like we've done in the past.

"We're on track right now, we have a booster campaign that's being successful so why don't we actually just hold the progress we have and actually just hold the progress we have and actually shut down travel - limit travel - to those places where it could be imported from.”

Elsewhere, Nicola Sturgeon has said there is no need to “hit the panic button” over the new variant.

Speaking to Bauer Media ahead of the start of the SNP conference on Friday, Ms Sturgeon said: “I don’t think we should get ahead of ourselves and I don’t think we should be pressing the panic button around any of this.

“But there is no doubt that developments in the last 24 hours around this new variant are the most significant and the most concerning that we have had in the last few months.

“We still need more data, more analysis – we’re monitoring it very carefully, but given the level of concern about the potential of this new variant, we’ve taken highly precautionary action in restricting travel and asking for self-isolation of people coming from certain countries.

“That’s the appropriate action to take at this stage, but we will be looking carefully at developments over the days to come.”

UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid told the Commons discussions are ongoing over the prospect of adding further countries to the red list as he said there is “huge international concern” over the variant.

He said: “We are keeping this under review and there’s very live discussions going on about whether we should and when we might add further countries, and we won’t hesitate to act if we need to do so.”

Mr Javid said experience has shown “we must move quickly and at the earliest possible moment”, adding there were concerns the variant may be more transmissible, make vaccines less effective and may affect one of the UK’s Covid treatments, Ronapreve.

He told the House of Commons it was “highly likely” the B.1.1.529 variant had already spread from South Africa and Botswana, where confirmed cases have been found, to other countries.

Commenting on the first European case, Belgian Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke said: “We have one case of this variant that is confirmed. It’s someone who came from abroad.”

Marc Van Ranst, who works with the Rega Institute in Belgium, tweeted that a sample was confirmed as the variant in a traveller who returned from Egypt on November 11. The patient first showed symptoms on November 22.