Scots have been warned that the impact of the coronavirus pandemic could stretch out into the summer holidays if things do not improve.
Speaking at a daily Covid-19 briefing at St Andrew’s House in Edinburgh, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that people should not be “under any great expectation” that things will return to normal in the country by June.
It comes as she argued Scotland’s coronavirus testing goals are “more ambitious” than those set out for the rest of the UK.
On Thursday night, UK health secretary Matt Hancock announced a target of carrying out 100,000 daily tests in England by the end of April as part of a five-point plan to tackle the virus.
Ms Sturgeon said: “When you factor in the difference in size between Scotland and the UK, what we are doing here will take Scotland to the same sort of position that the UK seems to be aiming for.
“We are increasing NHS Scotland’s current capacity of 1900 to 3500 a day by the end of this month at the latest. That is broadly similar, although slightly more ambitious, than the UK ‘pillar one’ target of 25,000 tests a day.”
She said that a major new testing facility at Glasgow University will allow Scotland to “increase our testing capacity in a way which is proportionate with the rest of the UK”.
Ms Sturgeon also hit back at speculation that the coronavirus pandemic’s peak in Scotland was expected next week.
She said: “I want to be very clear that nothing I have seen gives me any basis whatsoever for predicting that the virus will peak as early as a week’s time here in Scotland.
“I don’t want people to have a false expectation. I have to ask people, we all have to ask all of you, to continue to stick with these measures no matter how difficult they are.”
Ms Sturgeon added she couldn’t promise a phased lifting of lockdown measures would happen before the summer without “the informed basis on which to be doing it”.
She said: “I don’t think anybody should be under any great expectation that summer holidays will be happening as normal this summer.
“I wish I could say otherwise but right now I don’t think that would be a safe assumption for anybody to make.”
Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer Dr Catherine Calderwood added: “Many of us are familiar with this curve that we have been discussing, (and) trying to flatten the curve by introducing these suppression measures to stop the number of people becoming infected overwhelming our NHS.
“That curve has been based on mathematical modelling, computerised versions of what might happen in the real world.
“We have moved now to have real cases of people who are infected going into hospital, going to ICU, and sadly dying.
“I have been watching these models, and now the new data, as the numbers increase every day and I have not been able to find that the peak will be as soon as we are hearing in the reports in the media today.
“We need more information. I would urge people to keep going with these stringent measures. Now is not the time to think that perhaps it will all be over soon.
“We have always said that many months will be needed before we can get on top of this virus.”
She added: “We will lift measures as soon as we can safely. What we are already seeing in countries across the world is that, when measures are lifted, cases jump up almost immediately and the concern is those cases will then be a larger peak than the first one.
“At the moment the key is to watch our own data and listen to the scientific advice. I would not be thinking that those summer holidays are very likely to be as they were in the past but we really don’t know.”
A total of 3,001 people in Scotland have now tested positive for Covid-19. 172 people in the country have died as a result of the disease.
Ms Sturgeon also revealed that learning and childcare centres established for the children of key workers in the wake of Scottish school closures several weeks ago will remain open during what would have been the Easter holidays.
She warned the break will be “one of the most unusual holiday periods that we have faced”, adding it will be “a hard period unlike any we have known in our lifetime”.
Ms Sturgeon added: “I know many people will be thinking about plans they had made before the virus struck.
“Everyone will be staying home except for essential purposes. Once again, I know how hard this is. I want to stress again today that these restrictions are absolutely essential.”