The Moray council area will have to remain at Level 3 of lockdown for the time being because of the high levels of “community transmission” of coronavirus, Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed.

The First Minister said that case numbers in North East region taking in Forres, Elgin, Lossiemouth and Buckie, are more than four times higher than in the rest of the country which is due to move to Level 2 on Monday.

Sturgeon said :“It’s against that backdrop that, unless the situation was to materially improve over the next few days, it would simply not be safe or sensible to ease restrictions there from Monday.”

As well as Moray remaining in Level 3, the First Minister said the region would see travel restrictions reimposed to ensure cases do not rise in other areas of the country.

She added: “This will mean that travel in and out of Moray will be limited to permitted purposes only.”

If Moray stays at level three, financial assistance will be given to businesses affected said the First Minister and people are strongly encouraged to take up lateral flow tests and follow all the guidelines.

Moray MP and Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross said that while there was good news overall for Scotland but urged people in his home patch to be patient.

He said: “It’s important to give the area as much time as possible, cases are beginning to stabilise but business and families should be prepared that we will be remaining under the level 3 restrictions but a wee bit longer. We will come through this together just a couple of weeks behind the rest of the country.”

In contrast Scotland’s islands will move to Level 1 due to vaccination coverage and low case numbers.

Western Isles, Orkney, Shetland, all islands in the Highland Council area with the exception of Skye (which has a bridge connection to the mainland) and the islands in the Argyll and Bute area are affected.