NICOLA Sturgeon has backtracked on a target to secure 2,000 contact tracers by next month – suggesting that number will not be initially needed.

The First Minister has also said that she is “very hopeful and optimistic” that Scotland’s lockdown rules will start to be relaxed on Thursday. 

Last week the First Minister set out the Scottish Government’s four-stage routemap to easing the restrictions brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic. The timetable is dependent on the continued suppression of the virus. 

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Scotland 'on track' to meet 2,000 contact tracer target but more may be needed

While announcing the plans last week, Ms Sturgeon indicated the first measures to be lifted, including allowing people to meet up with other households outside and socially distanced, could begin from this Thursday, but it is dependent on the infection rate remaining low and stable. 

This morning, the First Minister stressed that the information she has received so far suggests that Scotland is on track to start coming out of the lockdown on Thursday. 

Speaking on BBC Good Morning Scotland, she said: "From the perspective I have right now, on Monday morning of this week, yes I am very hopeful and optimistic that we will be able to move to phase one. 

"The data rate now would suggest that is the case, but of course I've got to formally assess that on Thursday.” 

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon: Time right for Scotland to lift lockdown despite static infection rate

She added: "That will then allow us to set out the steps that we will take to ease restrictions, which ones we will be able to ease and the order in which we will do that. 

"I think that will be an important step forward. It will be a cautious step forward because we have to keep the virus under control, but it will be the first step on that road, hopefully back to a greater degree of normality." 

Asked about the Government's progress towards its target of 2,000 contact tracers by June for its test, trace and isolate strategy, Ms Sturgeon revealed that 660 are currently employed and 750 were "in process", while approximately 20,000 people applied. 

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Nicola Sturgeon warns 'good judgement' needed or lives of loved ones at risk

She added: “I don't think we will need all 2,000 incidentally in the first stages of this. 

"The further we suppress the virus, the fewer people that are going to get infected. 

"Therefore the fewer people that will have symptoms that will need to be tested with their contacts being traced. 

"But the important thing is we have the ability to flex that because we may see the prevalence of the virus and the incidence of new cases increase at particular points." 

Last week, Ms Sturgeon indicated that Scotland may need more than 2,000 contact tracers, depending on how the spread of the virus responds. 

Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw said:“Everyone desperately wants Scotland’s plan to exit lockdown quickly and safely to work, but it won’t happen unless the testing system is up to scratch.

“There’s no getting away from the fact Nicola Sturgeon said there would 2,000 contact tracers recruited by the end of this month.

“Now she’s rowing back on that pledge significantly, and it sounds like she’s getting her excuses in early for having significantly fewer.

“The SNP’s approach to testing has been botched from the outset, and continued failure on this front will put lives at risk and lead to lockdown lasting longer than is necessary.”

Speaking at her daily news conference, Ms Sturgeon said that the Scottihs Government was "not dropping the 2,000 target", but insisted it was important that the system could be flexible.

She added: "We will have access to 2,000 contact tracers by the end of the month but we do not think we will need all of them by then given the current low level of virus."