COVID-19 cases are likely to rise again in the summer as restrictions continue to be eased, according to a Fife public health expert.

Dona Milne, NHS Fife’s director of public health, believes a spike in cases will occur as Scotland moves through its roadmap to recovery, even with the vaccination programme in full swing.

She told a meeting of Fife’s integrated joint board today on Friday: “We’re often asked by people what we might see in the coming months as the Government makes changes to restrictions, including the significant changes from Monday.

“We’re likely to see a rise in cases as we move towards summer and we’re ready to support services in that.”

Ms Milne’s warning came ahead of the easing of mainland Scotland restrictions to Level 3 on Monday. Pubs are now able to serve alcohol outdoors and retailers re-opened fully for the first time this year, as did gyms and leisure centres.

The number of people allowed to attend weddings and funerals has also risen from 20 to 50, and receptions and wakes can be held as well.

Ministers expect Scotland to move to Level 2 next month, permitting the re-opening of some leisure attractions such as cinemas and music venues, as well as socialising inside people’s homes, with further moves to Levels 1 and 0 in June.

As people begin socialising again, particularly indoors, there are fears that cases will rise again.

While work continues to assess how effective vaccines are at reducing transmission as well as infection, Ms Milne has asked the public to continue adhering to preventative measures such as social-distancing, ventilating indoor spaces and wearing face masks in order to contain the spread of COVID-19.

The public health boss added: “We don’t yet know how good the vaccine is at preventing transmission but the findings so far are encouraging. It’s important to follow the guidance of social-distancing, ventilation, and wearing face- coverings.

“We have symptomatic and asymptomatic testing centres across Fife and we’re working with government colleagues to ensure they’re in the right place.”

Her comments echo those of Professor Adam Finn, a member of the UK Government’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, who told BBC Breakfast this week that modelling “clearly point(ed) to a summer surge in cases as the lockdown is relaxed”.

Fife is continuing to record a downward trend in infection, recording an average of 23 cases per 100,000 people in the seven days up to April 23 and a 1.1 per cent positivity test rate. Overseas variants such as those reported in Brazil and South Africa are yet to make themselves known in Fife.

Scott Garden, NHS Fife’s director of pharmacy and medicines, told the meeting that 240,000 vaccinations had been administered in the Kingdom, of which around 40,000 were second doses.

Almost all care home staff and residents have been fully inoculated, and work is ongoing to prepare four new vaccination centres for younger cohorts.

These will be inside the Carnegie Conference Centre in Dunfermline, the Savoy Centre in Methil, the former Argos store in Glenrothes’ Kingdom Centre and the ex-M&S store on Kirkcaldy’s High Street.

Mr Garden also revealed that Fifers under 30 would be given the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine rather than the Oxford-AstraZeneca equivalent as a precaution, after evidence emerged of a one-in-100,000 (0.000095 per cent) risk of blood clots associated with the latter jab.