Scottish ministers are “not ruling out” easing lockdown in some areas ahead of others, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
Some parts of Scotland are less badly affected by coronavirus, with few cases currently in hospitals in Orkney, Shetland or Dumfries and Galloway.
The first minister said she had “never ruled out” taking a “regionally varied approach” across Scotland.
But she stressed that the government was not proposing that approach “at this stage” .
And she said if it was to happen, it would need to be done in a “practical and clearly understandable way”.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland currently have stricter restrictions in place than England, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson moved to begin slightly easing the lockdown there this week.
The virus appears to have hit the central belt of Scotland and its larger cities harder than more rural areas.
Data from the National Records of Scotland has suggested the highest rates of death linked to the virus were recorded in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde and Lothian health board areas, while none have been reported in the Western Isles.
The latest Scottish government figures said there were fewer than five cases in hospitals in each of Orkney, Shetland, the Western Isles and Dumfries and Galloway, and only five in the Highland region.
This has led to suggestions that the lockdown restrictions could start to be eased there before harder-hit parts of the country.
The Scottish government’s paper of options for exiting lockdown said ministers had an “open mind” about “geographical variation within Scotland”.
Ms Sturgeon said this was not the government’s current plan, but that it could be pursued if it was backed up by scientific evidence.
She said: “I’ve never ruled out regional variations if both the evidence backs up that kind of approach and we judge they can be implemented in a practical and clearly understandable way.
“We don’t rule that out, but we are not at this stage proposing that kind of regionally varied approach in Scotland.
“We still have a [virus reproduction rate] and incidence of the virus that are still too high for us to meaningfully at this stage ease up on lockdown.
“That is something obviously which is under ongoing monitoring. We will monitor that on a Scotland-wide basis, but if the evidence leads us to think things could be done on a regional basis, we’ve never ruled that out.”
Chief Medical Officer Gregor Smith warned that it was harder to be confident about figures for virus reproduction rate over smaller geographic areas, saying localised figures should be “treated with caution”.
The latest figures showed a further 34 people have died in Scotland with a confirmed case of coronavirus – bringing the total by that measure to 2,007.
Ms Sturgeon told her daily briefing that 1,480 people were currently in hospital with a suspected or confirmed case , a reduction of 54 on the previous day, with 71 being treated in intensive care – an increase of one.