NICOLA Sturgeon has warned Scots they will be likely living with physical distancing rules for some time as she stressed a move to the final phase of easing lockdown will not take place after the usual three-week review.

Yesterday, the First Minister outlined the phase three changes, with some taking force from today and others next week and the following week, as pubs, restaurants and hotels re-open – as well as hairdressers and places of worship.

But Ms Sturgeon warned the public to “prepare to be in phase three for a bit longer than three weeks”, with the move to the final phase of lifting the lockdown dependent on Covid-19 no longer being “the big public health risk that it has been for the last three months.”

Moving through phase one, two and three of the Scottish Government’s routemap out of lockdown has taken place at pace with three-week reviews green lighting the progression as Scotland continues to suppress the virus. But the final step, which would include mass gatherings being allowed, could be some time down the line.

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Ms Sturgeon confirmed that that from next Wednesday, the number of people who can attend a wedding or civil partnership ceremony or a funeral will rise to 20.

But the changes apply only to the ceremonies and not any linked events such as receptions or wakes.

She also said the limit of 20 people is subject to "strict rules on physical distancing".

Speaking at her daily media briefing, the First Minister said in regard to physical distancing measures including legally being required to wear face coverings and keeping two metres from people in other households unless there are exceptions, people should “not assume that those requirements are going to be lifted anytime soon”.

She added: “Until there’s a vaccine, we’re going to be living with elements of this for some time. What we do know is that the lower we can get the levels of it, the more normality we can get back.

“There’s a bit of a trade-off here that the more patience we exercise now and the more we stick by the rules, the more we can allow test and protect and these very targeted measures to keep any spikes under control.”

She added: “These are things you should get used to doing because it is likely we have to be doing these for quite some time to come.

“We’ve been in a three-week cycle which we hope we would be in terms of moving from one phase to another. I wouldn’t assume, at the moment, that there will be a three-week gap now from phase three to phase four.”

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The First Minister said the extended time Scotland is likely to spend in phase three is “partly because of the scale of the changes we will introduce over the course of phase three”, warning that “we need to really be cautious to assess the impact of those”.

She added: “We also know that phase four requires us to reach a judgement that this is not the big public health risk that it has been for the last three months.

“I don’t feel we are yet close to that point. I would prepare to be in phase three for a bit longer than three weeks."

Ms Sturgeon stressed that there “may be some changes around the margins” including the number of people the public can meet up with.

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She said: “Change that makes me even more nervous than when we went into phase one”.

“Let’s live with this for a period, see how it goes and get used to doing all these other things that will be required to keep this thing under control.”

Scotland’s clinical director, Professor Jason Leitch, added that he is “comfortable with the transition” to phase three but warned that he is “particularly nervous about indoors and larger groups”.