All Scots to have first vaccine by July 18 and both doses by mid September as Sturgeon 'optimistic' restrictions will be eased this summer
All Scots over 18 will have been given a vaccine by July 18, Nicola Sturgeon has said, with all second doses due by mid-September.
The Scottish Government initially planned to introduce this on June 28, but the relaxation was delayed this week amid rising cases of the Delta variant.
Some 950 new cases were reported on Friday. Data from Public Health England shows cases of the Delta variant have increased in Scotland by 50 per cent since last week, and the variant now accounts for almost all cases in the UK.
The R number, the average number of people a person with Covid-19 will pass the virus on to, remains the same, at between 1.2 and 1.4.
Ms Sturgeon also announced a ban on travelling to Manchester and Salford, which both have high rates of the Delta variant.
The new restrictions will come into force at midnight on Sunday, joining those already in place against travel to Blackburn, Darwen and Bolton.
Ms Sturgeon said these new measures, as well as the delay to entering level zero, will allow the vaccination programme to catch up, adding that she is “optimistic” restrictions can be eased in July.
Asked if rules could be relaxed before then, she said: "It's important that we consider this on the basis of all the evidence we have, and that we don't try to get too far ahead of where the evidence allows us to make judgements.
“I very much hope that over this summer we will pick up the route map again and get back to where we always wanted to be, even before we had to pause it .
“I'm optimistic about that. Will I use the word ‘definitely’ right now? No, because if I was able to use the word definitely, then I wouldn't have to wait for three weeks, to assess the evidence.
“I'm not going to give people false promises, much as I would love to stand here and give certainty about the 19th of July… I can’t do that right now.
“But we will take it step by step, and I am optimistic.”
The Scottish Government is due to publish a plan next week outlining guidelines beyond level zero in Scotland.
Opposition parties have called for an end to “inconsistencies” in restrictions.
Labour’s health spokesperson Jackie Baillie said: “As we look ahead to the next stage of unlocking, the Scottish Government need to learn from the mistakes of the past when they are designing their guidance.
“People are generally willing to follow the rules, but too often public trust is undermined by inconsistent, confusing and contradictory advice.”
Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie accused the Scottish Government of “tying itself in knots”.
He said: "Rather than wasting time on incoherent and confusing policy making, the First Minister would be better spending her time working out why so many vaccine appointments are still being missed.”
Ms Sturgeon announced earlier this week that all over 18s will be given a vaccine appointment by the end of next week, more than a month earlier than the previous target date of July 31.
The First Minister said on Friday that following this, all first doses will be given by July 18.
She said: “We have indicated all along that we expected to have offered first doses to all adults by the end of July… All appointments for all adults should be with people by the end of next week, so you can see that the programme is going faster than we previously anticipated.
“I'm also pleased to confirm that we now expect to have completed fist doses for all adults by the 18th of July.
“Again, faster progress than we thought might be possible just even a few weeks ago.”
The vaccination programme has recently accelerated in Scotland, with the gap between first and second doses shortened from 12 to eight weeks.
When asked when second doses will be completed, the First Minister said: “Eight weeks from that takes us to mid-September, which is when we would hope that we will be on track to complete second doses.”
She added: “The caveat I’ve got to put in there is that is dependent on us having the supply to do that – but we are wanting to give second doses eight weeks after first doses.
“So if we’re going to complete first doses by the middle of July then eight weeks after that is when – all things permitting – we would hope thereabouts to be completing second doses as well.”
Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said he is “delighted” at the acceleration of the programme.
A total of 3,591,638 people have now had a first dose in Scotland, over 80 per cent of the adult population.
Some 57 per cent have had a first dose.
Mr Yousaf said: “Anyone who hasn’t received a letter by next week can visit the appointment checker at NHS Inform. The system lets you rebook if the timing or location is not suitable which will be a useful tool for students and anyone who has recently moved house.
“Additional capacity has been secured by NHS Boards to bring forward of all second doses from 12 to 8 weeks which is important given the emergence of the Delta strain as we know greater protection is provided after the second dose.
“Again, I want to stress how important it is that everyone takes up their offer of a vaccine when they get it. The emergence of the Delta variant shows we cannot be complacent, and the vaccination programme – along with restrictions and testing – offers protection to you, your loved ones and your community.”