First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said she “very much hopes” to move towards easing Covid restrictions on July 19.
Speaking at a briefing, Ms Sturgeon said the situation will be under careful review between now and her address to Holyrood on Tuesday.
It comes after she said there were some “encouraging signs” that the recent surge in cases may now be “levelling off”.
While she said we are seeing a slow down in cases, and vaccinations are going well, this is a “moment in the route out of the pandemic to be cautious and careful”.
Referring to the decisions being made in England, Ms Sturgeon said it was her job to do what is right for Scotland and that she will make decisions that feel “right” – not “popular”.
A further 2,802 positive cases have been confirmed in the last 24 hours – down from the 3,799 reported yesterday. Four more people have died.
Another 401 more people are in hospital, up 14 from yesterday.
Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, Dr Gray’s in Elgin and Raigmore Hospital in Inverness are all at the rare “code black”, with under-pressure staff urging people only to come in if they need urgent care.
‘Optimism must be balanced’
Ms Sturgeon said the vaccination programme “continues to make really good progress”, adding that this was a cause for optimism.
But she added: “For now though that optimism needs to be balanced by concern at the high case numbers we have seen recently.”
However she said there was a “suggestion that the recent surge in cases may be to some extent levelling off”.
Case numbers are 1,432 lower than were reported last Thursday, Ms Sturgeon said, adding that the seven-day average also appeared to show a “slow down in the rise of positive cases”.
“The is encouraging news but obviously case numbers remain high and that is a worry,” she added.
Referring to Boris Johnson’s decision to push ahead with Freedom Day in England on July 19, which not only will see the remaining restrictions lifted but also remove the requirement for face coverings, Ms Sturgeon said that was “something of an exception”.
“While I totally understand the desire that some have for us to follow suit in every single step, we have to think carefully about the steps we do take at this juncture,” Ms Sturgeon said.
“My job is to keep the country safe – this is a race between the virus and the vaccines.
“Covid is still with us – across the globe – and it is going to be around for some time to come.”
She stressed that if the country does move to Level 0, there will not be an “abrupt” end to mitigation measures such as face coverings.
She said that “we cannot simply throw all caution to the wind and no longer worry at all about rising levels of infection”.
Only about 3% of people who catch coronavirus now end up in hospital, the first minister said, down from 13% earlier in the pandemic.
But Ms Sturgeon said: “It is still the case that 3% of a high number of cases will still put significant pressure on our NHS – that is a matter of basic arithmetic.”