The 'likely' three-week delay in the lifting of lockdown in Scotland could be extended beyond that, a Scottish Government minister has hinted.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon revealed yesterday in the Scottish Parliament that she is expected to announce, next week, a pause in moving council areas out of their current levels.

Over the last month there has been an increase in the number of covid cases and hospitalisations due to the spread of the Delta variant which originated in India.

As a result the SNP leader told MSPs “in all probability” she will next week announce a pause in the easing of restrictions in a bid to vaccinate as many Scots as possible.

Ivan McKee said the rollout of the covid vaccine would be important
Ivan McKee said the rollout of the covid vaccine would be important

She said: "Given the current situation - and the need to get more people fully vaccinated before we ease up further - it is reasonable I think to indicate now that I think it unlikely that any part of the country will move down a level from 28 June.

"Instead, it is more likely that we will opt to maintain restrictions for a further three weeks from 28 June and use that time to vaccinate - with both doses - as many more people as possible."

Speaking on the BBC's Good Morning Scotland programme this morning Business Minister Ivan McKee hinted the delay could go beyond three weeks to allow more people to get vaccinated.

He said: "It depends on the data and we watch this very very close on a daily basis to ascertain what direction the virus is taking and how successful the vaccine has been in combating it, and how successful the measures that businesses, individuals and families up and down the country have been taking for months now.

"So we watch that data closely and based on the direction the virus takes and we're able to ascertain what what measures can be taken and what can be relaxed."

McKee was asked if the three-week delay could last longer, he replied: "It obviously depends on the direction that the virus takes - I think that goes without saying, and everybody understands that.

"There's several things first of all, obviously the vaccine supplies dependent on the stocks of vaccine that we received from the manufacturers, and of course we are deploying those vaccine stocks as soon as we're able to.

"That process is ongoing and thanks to everybody who's been part of that rollout and everyone who has had the vaccine.

"There's still an open question around the links between the impact of the vaccine in terms of hospital numbers and and fatalities as a consequence of that.

"The data is beginning to show that the vaccine is having an impact.

"There's still more data being collected and clearly with the different variants in play it further complicates the picture."

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