Nicola Sturgeon has predicted Scotland may be edging closer to “total elimination” of coronavirus after no new deaths were recorded overnight for the first time on a weekday since March.
The first minister hailed the absence of any new fatalities with a laboratory confirmed link to Covid-19 as “really significant”, with previous instances only occurring at the weekend when reporting rates tend to be lower.
But she warned the virus “has not yet gone away” and is “on the rise again” in some other countries, such as Germany and the United States.
Speaking at the Scottish Government’s daily coronavirus briefing in Edinburgh, Ms Sturgeon said: “Suppressing the virus, driving it as far as we can towards total elimination, has to be our overriding priority.
“We have made exceptional progress over the past three months, and the figures today highlight that.
“But it has only been possible because the vast majority of us have stuck to the rules.”
The latest figures on Friday showed 17 new positive cases in Scotland, with just 0.3% of tests now producing a positive result.
The first minister explained even total elimination of the virus would not necessarily mean it disappears completely.
“It doesn’t mean it has gone away, it doesn’t mean it will stop rising again if we stop doing the things we need to do,” she said.
“It gives us more confidence that we can keep it under control with surveillance and testing, contact tracing and where we see outbreaks using very targeted measures as opposed to blanket lockdowns.
“I think we are not that far away from that. The challenge is keeping it there.”
Ms Sturgeon said the country must be “very vigilant” with people coming into Scotland from other parts of the UK or other nations where infection rates are higher.
She also made a direct appeal for people to support the Scottish tourism industry but warned businesses and visitors will need to take joint responsibility for their actions.
It comes after business owners in the north and north-east reported being “inundated” with bookings and inquires following the announcement caravan parks will be able to open early next month.
The surge in interest may be good news for the industry but has also been met with concern after police were forced this week to disperse large groups from Kelvingrove Park in Glasgow and declare a major incident at Bournemouth beach.
Ms Sturgeon admitted she felt anxious about changes to lockdown “because of how easy it would be to go backwards again” but stressed the risks can be mitigated if people make the right choices.
She said it is possible to go on a “staycation” without going to crowded places and while still maintaining advice around physical distancing and hygiene.
“I want people to support the tourist industry,” Ms Sturgeon said.
“It had, over the summer in particular, a dreadful time and it’s going to continue to be hard for the tourism sector.
“If you are able to, if you have the wherewithal and the time to do it, please plan a staycation. Go and support our local tourist industry but do so safely.”
The first minister said a resurgence in cases in some countries coming out of lockdown was a warning sign “we ignore at our peril”.
She added: “The virus has not gone away, and it will not go away of its own accord.
“A big concern for me is that, as we ease more restrictions, people drop their guard – it is perhaps human nature.”