The Scottish Government may be able to accelerate the relaxation of rules on meeting outdoors, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
She praised progress on driving down the spread of the virus across Scotland and on vaccinations, as she announced 498 cases in the past 24 hours – the lowest daily total since September 27.
The Scottish Government’s updated plan for moving out of lockdown states a plan to allow four people from two households is unlikely to begin before March 15.
The same date is given for the resumption for non-contact, outdoor group sports for 12-17 year olds.
She said hospital cases have fallen, with 666 people in hospital confirmed to have the virus, down 52 in 24 hours, and 64 patients are in intensive care, down three.
Scotland recorded 11 deaths of coronavirus patients, taking deaths under this measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – to 7,409.
Ms Sturgeon said: “I’m hopeful that next week we might be able to make some relatively minor, but I think important, changes in our ability to meet outdoors and also how young people are able to interact with their friends outdoors.”
She urged people to stick with the rules, saying if people did that she was “really, really optimistic that we will continue to see the progress we need to see to start opening things up and getting us all back to much more reality”.
She warned: “We also know then just how quickly things started to go in the wrong direction.
“It is really important we stick with it for now, hold our nerve, keep suppressing cases while vaccination does its job.
“If we do all of that, we can be really hopeful that there are definitely, at long last, better days lying ahead.”
She said 1,717,672 Scots received their first coronavirus vaccine as of 8.30am on Friday, an increase of 29,064 from the previous day.
A total of 108,197 have had their second jab, with 8,139 getting it on Thursday.
She warned: “We might face some supply issues next week which could affect vaccination appointments, but we are working hard to try to avoid that.”
She also stressed Scotland is still “on track” to have offered a first dose to everyone aged 50 and above, all unpaid carers and all adults with certain underlying health conditions, by the middle of April.
Giving a further update on the daily figures, she said the daily test positivity rate is 3.1%, up from 2.5% the previous day.
Ms Sturgeon said a “growing number” of businesses have signed up for the routine testing now available for people without symptoms in food production and processing businesses – such as dairies, abattoirs and meat and seafood processing plants.
She said these workplaces had a higher risk of transmission, due to factors such as the cold temperature and limited ventilation.