NICOLA Sturgeon will unveil the options being considered for a gradual lifting of the coronavirus lockdown in Scotland.

The First Minister is also to set out next week “minor changes” which may be made soon to the social distancing rules, which have been in place since March 23.

She made the announcement at her daily briefing yesterday, saying while she would not be giving a timetable for the easing, the country could

not live “forever” under the current restrictions.

“As we can’t yet confirm dates of when things will open up again, at least we will seek to share with you the order of priority and potential phasing. So I will give you an indication on that next week, I will share with you more information on the assessments we are making and the range of options that we are looking at and any further minor changes that we might make in the short term,” she said.

Sturgeon went on to state there was little “room for manoeuvre” in the easing but decisions would take into account fairness and quality of life as well as the economy and business interests.

“A life where we go to work but stay locked down with no family interaction for the rest of the time is not one that many of us, if any of us, would enjoy. So given that we are likely to have, for quite a while to come, very limited room for manoeuvre – and I want to stress that is the case – we will need to get these balances as right as possible,” she said.

“Our considerations will be informed, as we have always said, by the scientific evidence and advice and the clear principles we have set out.”

She said the Scottish Government would “continue to monitor the evidence very closely” for when changes to the lockdown could be made.

“As we hopefully see more evidence of a downward trend in the virus, we will then consider changes,” she pledged.

Currently the only change the Scottish Government has made to lockdown restrictions so far is to allow people to exercise more than once a day. The “Stay at Home” message still applies to people in Scotland – as well as those in Wales and Northern

Ireland – though in England it has been replaced with a “Stay Alert” slogan with people being encourage to return to work if they cannot work from home.

The latest figures from Health Protection Scotland reveal a total of 2053 patients have died after testing positive for coronavirus, up by 46 from 2007 on Thursday.

Some 14,260 people have tested positive for the virus, up by 143 from 14,117 the day before. There are 71 people in intensive care with coronavirus or coronavirus symptoms, no change on Thursday, while there are 1449 people in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19, a decrease of 31.

During the briefing, the First Minister cited a survey which found the majority of the public back the country’s lockdown.

She said Scottish Government polling shows 84% support a “slow and gradual” lifting of restrictions, while 82% agree that before further significant changes to lockdown are made, the impact of those already introduced should be assessed.

Meanwhile, it also emerged yesterday that according to new Scottish Government guidance, care home workers who have tested positive for coronavirus could have to finish their shift if there are staff shortages.

Health Protection Scotland’s latest advice for care homes says a staff member would have to continue working if their absence would “create an unacceptable risk to the safety of the care being provided”.

The First Minister said that would only happen “in extremis”, and she urged care homes to develop contingency plans to avoid staff shortages that would require infected staff to continue working.

“This is about making sure that a care home is not left, even for a short period of time, without the right level of cover, because that would also pose a danger to residents in the care home,” she said.

Although the guidance states it would be acceptable for infected staff to work with residents who are also known to have the virus, the First Minister and Scotland’s chief nursing officer Fiona McQueen claimed this would not be the case.

Sturgeon said: “We’re talking – in extremis, for a very short period of time – of a member of staff not simply walking out the door.

“But they would not be – if they had tested positive – providing direct clinical care to a resident.

“But the more contingency planning that care home providers do, the less likely it will be for care homes to be in that situation.”