Any easing of coronavirus restrictions will not mean returning to how things were before the pandemic struck, a new report from the Scottish Government has warned.
It pledges an easing of the lockdown measures, brought in a bid to curb the spread of the disease, will be “conducted in a phased and careful manner”.
But the report stresses people will need to “find a way to live with this virus”.
The report states: “Our assessment is that now is not the right time to relax restrictions.”
But it said when they are lifted, they might have to be reimposed – potentially with little notice – if cases of Covid-19 increase too rapidly.
The paper has been published by the Scottish Government to set out the possible next steps for dealing with the virus.
It comes after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon pledged she would be open and transparent with people when considering this.
The report makes clear “living with the virus will mean continued uncertainty and changes to how we live our lives”.
We are likely to require continued adherence to the advice on staying at home if symptomatic and to the advice on physical distancingScottish Government report
It adds: “The key consideration around easing restrictions is how to do so safely.
“Even as we lift some of the more restrictive measures, we are likely to require continued adherence to the advice on staying at home if symptomatic and to the advice on physical distancing.”
It is “likely” restrictions on gathering in groups, which have shut down pubs and led to public events across the country being cancelled, will need to continue “for some time to come”, the report warns.
Good hand and cough hygiene “must become fundamental habits”, it states, adding “each one of us will have to adapt to this as the new normal, at least until we are sure that we can be more protected by a vaccine or treatment”.
It also warns restrictions might have to be reimposed after they have been lifted – and that this may happen several times.
The report states: “If, after easing any restrictions, the evidence tells us we are unable to contain the transmission of the virus then we will have to reimpose them, possibly returning to lockdown with little notice.
“While we will do our best to avoid this, it is possible that such a cycle may happen more than once until we reach a point when we have in place an effective vaccine.”
It adds: “Our assessment is that now is not the right time to relax restrictions.
“Over the next few weeks, based on the evidence and expert advice, a number of options will be considered – not all of which may be selected.
“These are likely to include the easing of restrictions in a phased manner, opening up different parts of the economy sector by sector, considering different restrictions in different areas dependent on how the pandemic is progressing and considering options for different groups of the population – as is currently the case with those shielded for clinical reasons.
“It may be that restrictions on some outdoor activity are eased before those on indoor activities – however, all of this will be evidence-led.”
“Easing restrictions will not mean returning to how things were before the virus.
“Physical distancing, hand hygiene, and other critical behaviours will be essential in each sector.”
Here the Scottish Government pledged to work with experts in different sectors “to understand the practical consequences, for example, of what physical distancing would mean for schools and education, transport, business and recreation”.