NICOLA Sturgeon remains hopeful Scotland will move to Level 0 in just over two weeks’ time – despite a surge in confirmed positive cases of the virus.

The First Minister also warned that the only reason Scotland hasn’t been thrown back into lockdown measures is due to the success of the vaccine programme.

The First Minister stressed that the indicative dates to move to level 0 on July 19 and ‘beyond level 0’ on August 9 are dependent on the continued success of the vaccination rollout and “not tied to particular rates of infection”.

In the last 24-hour period, 3,823 positive cases have been confirmed in Scotland – 10.8% of all those tested – as case numbers remain at very high daily levels.

Speaking at her coronavirus briefing, the First Minister warned “we are continuing to deal with a surge in new cases” but stressed “it is heavily driven by the dominance of the Delta variant”.

She added: “Vaccination is the reason this surge in cases hasn’t led to the re-imposition of a strict lockdown. I think it would have done that at any earlier stage in this pandemic.

“Now, the vaccines are doing much of the work that lockdown measures previously had to do.”

The First Minister was asked whether the surge in case numbers could lead to the lifting of further restrictions being paused.

She said: “I’m not going to stand and look at case numbers that we’ve got right now and say ‘I’m not concerned at all’. Of course...I’ve got to be concerned about that.

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“I’m not as concerned about case numbers now as I would have been in January because we didn’t have people vaccinated to the extent we have now, in January. We know vaccination is working, but we need to balance all these things.

“We need to make sure that we are keeping the vaccine ahead of the virus.”

Ms Sturgeon added: “The dates we set for July 19 and August 9 are deliberately, for those reasons, not tied to particular rates of infection, they are tied to vaccination milestones. Therefore, I still very much hope to be in a position to meet those dates.

“Vaccination is what still gives me confidence in the dates we’ve set but we will go through the process of properly considering that before we confirm. We will confirm the direction of travel a week in advance.”