HUMZA Yousaf has warned the Delta variant has posed a “bump in the road” to Scotland’s exit routemap amid speculation Nicola Sturgeon could further slow down a return to normality.

The Health Secretary stressed Scotland is “at the very, very early days of a potential third wave”.

He added that the impact of the now dominant Delta variant on the NHS is still being assessed and modelling data into what the peak of the third wave will do to healthcare capacity is being investigated.

Reports suggest that Boris Johnson is set to delay the full re-opening of the economy and personal freedoms in England, earmarked for June 21, until August with case numbers rising.

The Prime Minister is set to outline a revised timetable today and Nicola Sturgeon could follow suit when she addresses MSPs in Holyrood tomorrow.

One of the First Minister's scientific advisers has warned that a full easing of restrictions later this month could still cause "a lot of damage".

Professor Stephen Reicher said the UK should be wary of "going backwards" as new cases of the virus continued to increase.

Speaking on Times Radio, he said: "I think we'll hear a delay, because all the data now points that way.

"In a situation where things are getting worse we don't know how much worse they're going to get. We don't know how many people are going to get seriously ill.

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"There's still a lot of damage that can be done, therefore it makes good sense to pause."

Speaking on the BBC’s Sunday Show, Mr Yousaf insisted the Scottish Government’s “approach has always been consistent” when setting out a strategy for lifting restrictions.

He added: “We have taken a cautious approach - we have always been led by the public health data.

“We as a Government came under pressure when the UK Government announced their June 21 date to give some sort of indication to give similar dates around June 21.

"We resisted that because we take a week-by-week analysis of the data, we look at where we are going in terms of our roadmap and the First Minister will, of course, update Parliament next week, again in line with the latest data that we have.”

READ MORE: Humza Yousaf warns Delta variant 'bump in the road' to Scotland's Covid exit

Mr Yousaf warned that “there’s no doubt at all that the Delta variant is absolutely a bump in the road” adding that “we have to just ensure that we understand fully the affects and link between the rising number of cases and hospitalisations and that is the key critical question”.

He added: “If we think the link between positive cases and hospitalisation has weakened, which again the positive in that sense, how do we determine what local authority will then stay in what level as we move forward?

“If we can, as we hope we can with the vaccination, (we can) effectively live with this virus so we don’t have to go into perpetual lockdowns.

“I’m not going to pre-empt what we are going to say to the Parliament next week but that is exactly the kind of questions we are asking.”

Labour has called for the Scottish Government to commit to providing everyone over 40 with their second dose of the Covid vaccine and everyone over 18 with their first dose by the next review of restrictions on June 28.

The party’s health and Covid recovery spokesperson, Jackie Baillie, has pointed to case data showing Scotland has the highest rate of Covid in the UK, but is trailing behind England on the administration of second doses and lagging behind Wales which has vaccinated more than 86% of their adult population.

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As of Monday, June 7, there were more than 900,000 unused vaccine doses allocated to Scotland – almost three times as many as Wales.

It is not known how many doses are ready to be administered.

Ms Baillie said: “The Scottish Government is currently failing in its duty to oversee a successful rollout of the vaccine.

“In Scotland, the prevalence of the virus is substantially higher than it is in Wales where there has been a much more successful roll-out of the vaccine.

“Despite hundreds of thousands of vaccines being stockpiled, many Scots are still awaiting their first dose and Covid rates are rising alarmingly.”

She added: “Scottish Labour is clear – the Scottish Government must set a deadline of June 28 to double vaccinate everyone over 40 and deliver a first dose to everyone over 18.

“Only such an ambitious target will protect the public health of the people of Scotland and bring Scotland’s flagging vaccination programme and spiralling case numbers back on track.”

But Mr Yousaf has insisted Scotland is still on track to offer a first dose of Covid-19 vaccine to all adults by the end of July, despite fears over supplies of the jag.

READ MORE: Covid: Scotland's vaccine rollout still 'on schedule' despite Pfizer supply issues

The Health Secretary stressed the target will still be achieved by the end of next month but warned the programme “can’t go even faster” to combat the spread of the Delta variant with issues over supply of the Pfizer vaccine.

Last week, Mr Yousaf warned that reduced supplies of the Pfizer vaccine could restrict the rollout in Scotland.

Speaking yesterday, he said: “To be very, very clear, we have enough supply to complete our programme.

“Our next milestone will be the end of next month to complete all first doses for the adult population and we are on schedule to do that.

"But clearly, if we have more supply, we can go faster – we can do more drop-in clinics for example.”

Amid fears supplies of the Pfizer vaccination are to be “tight” over the coming weeks, Mr Yousaf wrote to UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock for reassurance that supplies of the Pfizer jag can be increased.

Mr Yousaf said he is pleased by the response from the UK Government.

The Health Secretary was pressed about any sectors of the economy that could see rules relaxed if the routemap is delayed but said he “can’t promise” if any changes will be made.

He said: “We understand the pressure on a number of sectors, particularly the wedding sector and the number of people that had to postpone weddings. Of course, we will work with every sector – we know how hard hospitality has also been hit and leisure has been hit.

“We will work with them but we will always be guided by the public health advice.”

But the Scottish Conservatives have criticised Mr Yousaf for a lack of clarity to sectors of the economy what could be impacted by any delay to the strategy and rules kept in place for longer.

Tory finance and economy spokesperson, Liz Smith, said: “With the spread of the Delta variant, we know that we must remain cautious when it comes to protecting public health.

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“However, the incredible success of the vaccination rollout means SNP ministers should still be able to give individuals and businesses hope going forward rather than continuing to leave them in limbo."

She added: "After over a year of making enormous sacrifices, they are understandably frustrated to still be living and operating under tough restrictions.

“With the health service not currently overwhelmed thanks to the vaccination scheme, then SNP ministers must explain clearly why these guidelines are likely going to remain in place for longer than they initially outlined.

“If SNP ministers ultimately do decide to keep restrictions in place for businesses through the summer period, then that must come with urgent further financial support that is delivered as quickly as possible.

“Throughout the pandemic, the SNP have failed to engage with struggling sectors and been far too slow to get funding to those needing it most.”