The First Minister’s words come as just under 3,800 new coronavirus cases were recorded in Scotland in the past 24 hours – 1,400 more than the previous day and after several days of falling infection numbers.
Speaking on Wednesday, Ms Sturgeon expressed confidence that Scotland will still be able to move to Level 0 from July 19 but stressed many restrictions will still be in place – unlike the plans announced by Boris Johnson in England.
The current route map out of lockdown proposes a further lifting of the restrictions from August 9 although Ms Sturgeon said there will still be “some baseline measures in place” such as face masks being required in some situations.
Ms Sturgeon also confirmed the Scottish Government is reviewing the policy on self-isolation, including for school pupils, in light of the impact of the vaccine rollout.
Ms Sturgeon said the number of coronavirus infections in Scotland is “higher than we want them to be right now and higher than we should be comfortable with” but suggested we may be seeing a “stabilisation and a slowing-down of the rate of increase”.
She said that the current coronavirus situation is not the “worst case trajectory” in terms of deaths, cases and hospital admissions that the Scottish Government had modelled “but we’re not as close to the best case trajectory that we would want to be either”.
Looking ahead to the easing of restrictions, with a statement due on Tuesday, Ms Sturgeon said: “The question is what pace do we take to get to the end point, how safely do we do it and – to be blunt – how many lives are going to be lost, how many people are going to end up in hospital between now and then?
“That means there is a need for care and caution and, perhaps more than any other time in all the years I’ve been First Minister, my job is not to take the easy or popular decisions, my job is to take the tough decisions that are most likely to get us through this safely.”
With 39 new people in hospital since Tuesday, more than 150 additional patients in the last week and two health boards announcing they have suspended elective surgeries, Ms Sturgeon said: “I am certainly concerned about building pressure on our National Health Service.
“We know that vaccines are weakening the link between cases and hospitalisations, so there’s a much lower proportion of people with Covid-19 now who need to go to hospital, but even a lower proportion of a big number is putting pressure on our National Health Service.
“All of us need to get vaccinated as soon as we’re invited; vaccines will get us out of this, but we need to get as many people as possible vaccinated as quickly as possible.
“We’re going as fast as we can based on supplies and the clinical advice on leaving eight weeks between the first and the second doses.”