Scotland is “through the worst” of the Omicron wave, Humza Yousaf has suggested.
The health secretary, however, warned that there is still “significant pressure” on the NHS.
Latest figures published on Sunday indicate 5593 new cases of coronavirus were recorded in Scotland.
The statistics also showed there were two further deaths, with 958 people in hospital as of Saturday with recently confirmed Covid.
Speaking on Monday, Yousaf explained that although the country may be past the worst period for cases, the health service is still having to tackle the backlog in hospitals built up during the course of the pandemic.
“I think we’re through the worst of it,” he told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme.
“I definitely think the last few weeks of December and the first couple of weeks of January, that kind of five to six-week period, was probably the worst period.
“And the most intense pressure that the health service has ever come under in its 73-year existence.
“And that’s not coming from me, it’s coming from people who’ve worked in the health service telling me, who have been working there for decades and decades.
“So, while we’re through perhaps the worst of it, we should also say that there is still significant pressure on the health service.”
Yousaf added: “That pressure comes from the continued number of Covid patients, they’re just under 1000, thankfully, who are in hospital with Covid.
“It also comes from the cumulative impact of two years of a pandemic and having to catch up with that significant backlog.”
The health secretary also indicated that some level of restrictions will remain whilst the virus remains in a pandemic state.
“Until we are in a more endemic state in relation to Covid, until we are able to get back to even more normality than we have at the moment, then I’m afraid those infection prevention and control measures – in some shape or form – are going to have to remain,” he said.
“Our recovery is going to have to work around what is currently still a quite fragile state.
“Any clinician or public health expert that I’ve spoken to, nobody suggested that Omicron was the last variant that we’ll see.”