Those in groups who are “shielding” at home from coronavirus will be asked to keep doing so until the end of July, the First Minister has announced.
People with specific pre-existing health conditions, considered to be in the most at-risk groups to coronavirus, were initially asked to shield for a period of 12 weeks.
Nicola Sturgeon said that would now be extended to July 31, however, Scots who are shielding will be permitted to go outside for daily exercise from next Thursday, June 18.
That loosening of restrictions will not apply to shielded people living in a nursing or residential care home.
And despite being allowed to go out for exercise from next week, people in shielded groups cannot meet up outdoors with other households or take part in non-contact sports as the rest of the public can.
Shielding is for people including children who are at very high risk of severe illness from Covid-19.
They include organ transplant recipients, some cancer patients, people with weakened immune systems and those with severe respiratory conditions.
Sturgeon also apologised for an “administrative error” which saw around 18,000 people shielding in Scotland receive a letter indicating they could go out for exercise from today – June 8 – rather than June 18.
The First Minister stressed the policy of shielding “remains necessary” and should continue until July 31, although she said that date would remain under review.
She added she hoped to be able to move to a “tailored position” where individuals will be given more specialist advice on how to protect themselves from the virus.
The FM told Monday’s Scottish Government briefing: “There are no words that will ever adequately express the sorrow that I feel for all that you have gone through, or indeed the gratitude that I feel for the way that you have borne it.”
With falling Covid-19 case numbers and the second day in a row of zero new deaths, Sturgeon said she could understand why people shielding might ask: “Why should I bother?”
But she insisted that continuing to follow the guidance “really does matter”, adding: “These painful but necessary sacrifices have brought us to where we are today – with this virus in retreat.”