Speaking to a Covid-19 briefing on Thursday, Dr Smith said he is “encouraged” that the further easing of restrictions on Monday will mark a lifting of the kind of lockdown Scotland will not return to.
The current impact of the vaccination programme, adherence to restrictions and efficacy of the test and protect system are working well, Dr Smith said, and if they continue to do so he does not expect another lockdown.
“I would hope that background of immunity which is starting to develop within the country very much reduces the likelihood of us ever having to return to lockdown again,” he said.
But Dr Smith added that the “unknown” factor is how well vaccines will respond to new variants of Covid-19.
“I think for the virus that we have currently within this country [the vaccine] is having its intended effect against it. It’s certainly reducing severe disease, it’s reducing deaths, and it’s reduced hospitalizations already so all that is incredibly encouraging against the known variants that we have in this country,” he said.
“Of course the unknown in all of this is how that vaccine will respond to some of the emerging variants that we’re starting to see across the globe.
“I suspect that over time, we're going to find that updates to these vaccines will take place to make sure that they are configured to be much much more useful in terms of these variants, and inevitably the further variants that we will begin to see develop as well."
Scotland’s current defence against the virus is “three-pronged”, Dr Smith said.
“It's the vaccination programme, it's the behaviours that you, myself and others take every day in society and how we interact with others, and it's the test and protect system in terms of being able to identify people, advising them to isolate, and for them to comply with that isolation as well,” he said.
“If those three things are working together well, then I would certainly be encouraged that the really severe restrictions that we had in place just before last summer, and then through the winter, will hopefully be much less necessary in the future.”