NICOLA Sturgeon has said Scotland faces a moment of “great opportunity” but also a time of “very real danger” 100 days since lockdown was announced.

Speaking at the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing, the First Minister urged people to “work hard” to ensure progress is not lost, stressing that Covid-19 has “not gone away”.

Meanwhile, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman announced an expansion of hospital visiting for non-coronavirus patients from July 13.

Sturgeon announced that three deaths of patients who tested positive for the virus were recorded in Scotland as of 9am on Tuesday, taking the total to 2485. These are the first registered after four days running with no deaths under this measure.

The First Minister said in the previous seven days there had been a total of nine Covid deaths in Scotland, compared to 23 in the week prior to that.

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“That is a sustained and significant ongoing reduction,” she said.

When lockdown was announced on March 23, coronavirus was “starting to run out of control in Scotland”, she added.

“Because of that, two weeks after the start of lockdown in early April hospital admissions for the virus averaged over 200 every single day. Two weeks after that, Covid deaths in Scotland, going by the wider National Records of Scotland data, were on average more than 90 every single day.

“To be in our current position with hospital admissions averaging just four a day, with consistently low numbers of new Covid cases and with such a sharp reduction in death rates, all of that is massive and it is very welcome progress.”

Sturgeon said 10 more people had tested positive for the virus since Monday, taking the total to 18,251.

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A total of 885 patients are in Scottish hospitals with confirmed or suspected Covid-19, up 145 in 24 hours, she added, stressing the increase was all in suspected cases.

Of these, 19 are in intensive care, a rise of nine, again all in suspected cases.

The First Minister continued: “I now believe we have a genuine chance to come as close as it is possible to get to eliminating this virus in Scotland. We will then have to work to ensure we keep it at those levels.

“That gives us, if we get to that level and keep it at that level ... the best chance for seeing more of our friends in less restrictive circumstances, of re-opening the economy much more fully, being able to fully reopen our schools.

“So, this is a moment of great opportunity, but it’s also a time of very real danger.”

She stressed the need to “work very hard” to ensure the progress made in recent weeks is not lost “or even worse, reversed”.

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Freeman told the briefing that visiting to hospitals is being expanded on a phased basis from July 13.

She said one named visitor will be able to visit a patient on a non-coronavirus ward, as long as contact details are provided to enable Test and Protect tracing if required.

Visitors will be required to wear masks, maintain a two-metre distance and comply with hygiene rules.

They will also need to book a visiting slot in advance and should not bring gifts of food or flowers.

Freeman said visits to coronavirus wards will remain restricted.

Meanwhile, the First Minister has told how the coronavirus crisis changed her perspective on turning 50 and the way she thinks about life.

In an interview with Holyrood magazine, she spoke about how there were times when she felt “overwhelmed” by the situation.

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At some points she wondered whether everyone in the country would know someone who had died from the virus, she said.

The First Minister, who will turn 50 on July 19, said she had found “an even deeper resilience than I ever thought possible” during the crisis.

She said: “I don’t want to sound at all twee here, but this virus and the tragedy of it all has made me think about life and, you know, how much you’ve got to value life and make the most of it.”

The First Minister said she was sure next year’s elections to the Scottish Parliament would go ahead as normal life resumed. She said: “We will see some sense of normality return.

“I think the election will happen next year, in fact I’m pretty sure the election will happen next year, and debates about the country’s future will restart too.”