WE’VE been enjoying some really fine weather in the last few days, and it definitely feels like summer is finally here after what has been a very long winter.

It was certainly a huge relief that restrictions could be eased in Glasgow over the weekend, as the city moved down to Level 2 – and it is only because of the many sacrifices residents and businesses have made that we have been able to get to this point.

However, the situation right now, while hopeful, is still a very fragile one. You’ll have heard a lot in the media recently about a new strain of the virus, which is circulating widely, and which is thought to be significantly more infectious. And the news last week that Portugal has been removed from the green list of countries is a reminder of just how quickly the situation can change – and how important it still is to avoid non-essential international travel.

Cases are rising again – and that is a big concern that requires caution. But the upside – which we didn’t have in earlier stages of the pandemic – is that we now have vaccines, which early indications suggest are weakening the link between cases and hospital admissions.

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More than 5 million doses of the vaccine have been administered in Scotland, with more than 2 million people having had both jags. 99% of people aged 50 and over have had their first dose of the vaccine.

By any measure, that’s an incredible achievement – particularly for a virus which we didn’t even know about only 18 months ago – and it is thanks to the incredible efforts of vaccinators, and everyone who has rolled up their sleeves to get the jags.

Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself from the dangers of this virus, but it also helps to protect those around you.

Getting tested regularly is also crucial. If we all get tested regularly, we can help break chains of transmission and more sustainably re-open our economy and society.

Lateral flow tests are simple to undertake, they give quick results, and they are available free of charge through the NHS inform website. I encourage everyone to order a supply and get tested twice a week.

Finally, remember to follow all of the public health advice and continue to take all of the sensible precautions. That’s important for everyone, but it is particularly vital for anyone who hasn’t yet had both doses of the vaccine.

While we are still very much focused on tackling the pandemic, the Scottish Government is also working to protect the economy and kickstart a recovery. Many of the key economic levers do of course lie at Westminster, meaning we rely on the UK Government making the right decisions for Scotland.

On Thursday, I attended a Covid recovery summit with ministers from the devolved nations. During that meeting, I sought assurances from the UK Government that the furlough scheme will be extended as long as necessary, and that there will be no return to the cruel and damaging austerity of the past as we move from pandemic into recovery. We need to be investing in the economy right now – not cutting spending. A return to the pre-pandemic austerity would be disastrous for jobs and public services and for people and families across the country.

And we need to be doing everything we can to protect family incomes in tough times. That’s why we’ve also urged the UK Government to maintain the £20 uplift in Universal Credit, and abandon their plans to cut that uplift in September – a move which, according to the Children’s Commissioner of Scotland, would be “catastrophic” for many families and would “effectively knock out the benefits that the Scottish Child Payment brings into families”.

The Scottish Child Payment, which sees £10 a week being provided to low-income families, has been described as a game-changer in the battle against child poverty. But the benefits of that payment, which has already been rolled out to families with children under six, are being put at risk by a UK Government which has not yet committed to a recovery which supports the most vulnerable in our society.

If Boris Johnson really is committed to a fair, equal recovery, he needs to listen to the issues that we and others are raising – and act on them.

We have been through so much over the last 15 months, but there is a lot to be optimistic about in our current situation.

To finish where I began, we are currently at a very fragile point – and that means all of us still have a part to play, either in getting Covid outbreaks under control where they occur, like those in Glasgow, or in other parts of the country keeping levels low.

So please get vaccinated when you’re invited, keep getting regular tests to help break the chains of transmission, and please continue sticking to the guidance to keep you and those around you safe. The more we all do that, the more optimistic we can be about our chances of more normality over this summer and beyond.