People could pick a “bubble” of friends outside their households who they are allowed to meet up with as coronavirus lockdown measures are eased, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
The group of friends would have to remain the same every time, the first minister added.
She told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland other countries are looking into expanding the definition of “households” to allow small gatherings of people.
Currently in the UK rules state that people should not meet up with anyone they do not live with, including immediate family.
She said: “Some countries are starting to look at slightly expanding what people would define as their household – encouraging people who live alone to maybe match up with somebody else who is on their own or a couple of other people to have almost kind of bubbles of people.”
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She added: “And the key thing there is, if you’re seeing maybe one or two more people outside your household, it’s got to be the same people on a day-to-day, week-to-week basis so you’re still limiting the ability for the virus to transmit.
“Now, none of these are fixed decisions yet, but these are all the kind of things we’re trying to work through.”
Sturgeon said afterwards at her daily coronavirus briefing: “As we start to lift the restrictions, the real risk is that COVID-19 runs rampant again.
“So a return to normal as we knew it is not on the cards in the near future and it’s really important that I am up-front with you about that.
“What we must do is find a new normal, a way of living alongside this virus – but in a form that keeps it under control and stops it taking the toll we know it can do. That means, possibly for the rest of this year and maybe even beyond.
“That’s why talking about lifting lockdown as if it’s a ‘flick of the switch moment’, is misguided.”
Sturgeon went on: “Our steps, when we take them, will need to be careful, gradual, incremental and probably quite small to start with.
“We’ll need to assess them in advance and monitor them in action – sometimes, as I said a moment ago, we may even have to reverse things.”
In Belgium, experts are reportedly considering allowing private gatherings of 10 people on weekends – but it would have to be the same people each week.
It is not clear how authorities would check people are only seeing the same friends each time.