The coronavirus situation in Scotland remains “quite fragile” as hospitals are expected to come under increased pressure, a public health expert has said.
Professor Linda Bauld said the recent rise in cases appeared to be levelling off but the time lag of the virus meant hospital admissions would grow in coming weeks.
Daily cases peaked at 4,234 on July 1 following a sharp rise over the previous month.
Prof Bauld spoke to the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland radio programme on Saturday, saying the latest estimates for Scotland’s R number were between 1.2 and 1.5.
She said: “We are still going to see more people in hospital over the next few weeks.
“We know that there’s at least three or four health boards in Scotland that are expressing real concern about their capacity.
“So unless things improve significantly over the next little while, you know the situation does remain really quite fragile.”
Nicola Sturgeon is due to announce the next steps in a statement to the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday.
Prof Bauld said she did not expect the First Minister to reverse the moves out of lockdown but instead maintain a “cautious” approach.
The Edinburgh University academic said there had been a “dramatic” change in the age range of people in hospital with Covid, adding: “It’s much younger people who are in now, we’re obviously hearing concerns from clinicians – I think there are about 11 people in ICU in NHS Tayside, including some younger groups.
“So that is why you hear from the Scottish Government much more caution than what’s happening at England-level.
“I think all of us welcome the continued requirement for face coverings.”
Susan Michie, professor of health psychology at University College London (UCL) and a member of both the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) and Independent Sage, also spoke to the programme.
She expected Boris Johnson to announce an end to all restrictions from July 19 but urge the public to remain cautious – an approach she said would result in “mixed messaging”.
Prof Michie said: “We know from previously in the pandemic that in this sort of situation, a large number of people actually are incredibly sensible and do go by the data, not by what’s said on any particular date.
“So right at the beginning, if you remember, people were staying at home themselves weeks before the Government finally said we need to lock down.”
Recent polls suggested two-thirds of the public intended to carry on wearing face masks in enclosed spaces, she said, while many had called for tougher restrictions at earlier stages of the pandemic.
Asked if there would be challenges around the different rules in Scotland and England, Prof Michie continued: “I think it will be a challenge, again it’s mixed messaging, where messages and actions are not consistent across the whole of the UK.
“And I think that’s regrettable because I think it does undermine the effort to keep people thinking and behaving collectively, which is absolutely essential if we are to get out of this pandemic as quickly as possible.”
On Saturday, Scotland recorded seven deaths of coronavirus patients and 2,190 new cases, with the test positivity rate at 9%.
There were a total of 435 people in hospital with recently confirmed Covid-19, with 42 patients in intensive care.