Scotland could record between 2,500 and 10,500 new coronavirus cases on the day the country moves to Level 0 of its restrictions, according to John Swinney.
The country’s Deputy First Minister – and Covid Recovery Minister – revealed the detail from the Scottish Government’s modelling, which predicts the number of cases and deaths as a result of the virus.
Earlier on Tuesday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced Scotland would move to the lowest of its Covid-19 restrictions on July 19 as planned.
It means up to eight people from up to four households can meet within homes, while outside up to 15 people from up to 15 households can get together either in private gardens or public places.
On the basis of what we're seeing just now I think it is likely to be much closer to that lower end of the spectrumJohn Swinney MSP
However when asked about how the country will be affected by this, Mr Swinney told BBC Scotland’s Drivetime: “Obviously it varies quite significantly in relation to the position on the modelling, the numbers are really quite wide between different estimates.
“The latest estimates that we have indicate that on the 19th of July there could be between 2,500 and 10,500 new infections per day based on the variations in the modelling.
“On the basis of what we’re seeing just now I think it is likely to be much closer to that lower end of the spectrum than the higher end of the spectrum.
“But I have to accept, as with all modelling, there is variation and we have to see the panning out of individual circumstances as they take their course.
“Because the fatalities are very low, it is incredibly difficult to make predictions about that factor, so we have the variations of the ranges of case numbers available to us.
“I think that’s the judgment we’ve made that we think we are heading in that direction based on the progress that has been made week on week.”
When asked about hospital admissions going up to around 300 people each day, Mr Swinney added: “That is undoubtedly conceivable if those numbers take their course but I don’t think those numbers will take the course based on what I’ve said in my previous answer.
“We can play around with these numbers all we want, we have to make a judgement based out of all of this data about what is the likely pattern of the virus as best as we can predict.
“Based on what we’re seeing over the last few weeks we believe that the significance of the virus is reducing from a very high base to a slightly lower high base if I could put it that way.
“And moving in the right direction – which means that we can afford some of the relaxation, but we also have to proceed with caution which is why we’ve been unable to sustain some of the changes that we’ve proposed to make at this stage.”
One change not coming into effect on July 19 as originally hoped are the plans to lift physical distancing outdoors completely.
While people can meet in groups of up to 15, different groups of people will have to stay at least one metre apart.
Proposals for a gradual return to the office have also been pushed back to August 9 – when Ms Sturgeon hopes to lift the remaining Covid-19 restrictions.
Mr Swinney also said he thought it was ‘perfectly conceivable’ face coverings would be worn in Scotland until Christmas.
He added: “I think that we should recognise that we have got to take a careful and cautious approach to the suppression of Covid.
“That may take us time, it will be with us for a long time, we know the virus is going to with us for a long time.
“The more that we can do at a gradual elementary level to provide obstacles and barriers to the circulation of the virus, the more we should do that.”