A planned easing of coronavirus restrictions over Christmas will be “slight and careful”, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
But the First Minister said she is not expecting any relaxation of measures over the New Year period.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson will set out the basis of plans later on Monday to allow small numbers of households across the UK to mix during the holidays – but the First Minister said the details have yet to be finalised.
She said it is “likely” extended household bubbles will be allowed over Christmas.
Decisions to ease restrictions over the festive period are a “particularly difficult balance to strike” and have split public opinion, she said.
Ms Sturgeon added: “Reducing the prevalence of the virus is also what will allow us to consider a slight and careful – and I want to stress today those words ‘slight’ and ‘careful’ – easing of the rules for a few days over the festive period.
“There is an obvious desire to see loved ones at Christmas, I think we all feel that very strongly.
“There’s also a lot of anxiety about the potential risks associated with that, particularly at a time when we’re starting to see, perhaps, the end of this pandemic loom on the horizon.
“So we’re trying as hard as we can to reach a sensible balance, although it is possible – likely, in fact – that some households may be able to form slightly larger bubbles with each other for a short period over Christmas.
“We’re considering this because we recognise that isolation and loneliness can hit people particularly hard over the Christmas period.”
Ms Sturgeon said there is a recognition that – given the nature of Christmas and pressure people may feel to spend time with family members who may be alone over the period – some may “try to push the boundaries” of restrictions.
She said rather rather than allow that to be “uncontrolled”, the Scottish Government is trying to build in flexibility during the holidays.
Speaking during the Scottish Government’s Covid-19 update on Monday, the First Minister announced East Lothian will move from Level 3 to Level 2 of coronavirus restrictions from Friday.
“Last week we indicated that East Lothian and Midlothian – if there was no deterioration in their positions – would, from tomorrow, move down from Level 3 to Level 2,” she said.
“I can confirm that this will go ahead for East Lothian. However, the national incident management team has expressed some concern this morning about a rise in cases and test positivity over the past few days in Midlothian.
“So we will be considering that further this afternoon and we will confirm the position in relation to Midlothian later.”
Ms Sturgeon said the “overwhelming majority of local authority areas will remain in the current level” of restrictions.
The First Minister will deliver a statement updating the restrictions to the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday.
Reporting by PA