'Nobody can predict' when physical distancing will end in Scotland, says Jason Leitch

Nicola Sturgeon has said physical distancing may be removed once there is more understanding about how the vaccine programme impacts transmission of Covid-19.

However, the First Minister, the national clinical director and the chief medical officer said it would be wrong to speculate when this might happen, with Professor Jason Leitch saying “none of us can predict” when the measures may be binned.

Ms Sturgeon said she would not rule out removing the restrictions around physical distancing “later in the year”, but added she would be “very cautious” of those suggesting they had a clearly timeframe.

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She said: “I think to be definitive about that right now would be entirely speculative.

Nicola Sturgeon said it would not be right to speculate when social distancing rules are lifted.

"We’d all love to see physical distancing able to be eased or taken away altogether, but I think at the moment it is one of the things that by sticking to it we enable normality to be restored in some respects.

"In terms of looking ahead and being able to move away from that, one of the things would be greater understanding of the impact on transmission of the virus of the vaccine.

"I wouldn’t rule it out for later in the year, but equally I would be very cautious about giving anybody any firm steer that said come this summer physical distancing will no longer be required at all in any circumstances.”

Gregor Smith, the chief medical officer, said once second doses of the vaccine were administered, the Scottish Government hopes to see more data which will give them a clearer view on to what extent vaccination impacts transmission of Covid-19.

This could lead to a “calibration” of measures in the future, Dr Smith said.

He said: “As the vaccination programme proceeds and we learn more about transmission, it may be that we can start to tailor some of our other approaches a little bit more.

"But at this moment of time, for the foreseeable future just now, we are still going to need some of those behavioural protections that we all take for granted everyday for some time yet I suspect.

"To speculate as to when we’ll be able to start to change some of those just now is probably unhelpful because there is much that we have still to learn about the impact particularly of the vaccination programme on transmission yet.”

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