DESPITE some “signs of optimism” in coronavirus case levels in recent days there is a need for further caution, the First Minister has said.

Nicola Sturgeon confirmed that even though infection levels are declining and stabilising, a sign lockdown is working, pressure is already acute on the NHS and case levels remain high.

For that reason, Sturgeon said: “That means that the lockdown restrictions - including the strict stay at home requirement - will remain in place across mainland Scotland and some island communities until at least the middle of February.”

The First Minister also addressed the Barra outbreak, where 10% of the population is self-isolating.

READ MORE: Barra: Health chiefs concerned amid 'serious and escalating' Covid-19 outbreak

Barra and Vatersay will move from level 3 to level 4 from midnight tonight, meaning the islands will face the same stay at home measures at mainland Scotland.

“As the outbreak comes under control – which we hope will happen relatively soon – we will of course consider how quickly Barra and Vatersay can move back to level 3,” Sturgeon said.

On the issue of schools, Sturgeon said she recognised the difficulties children and young people out of school face. However she said schools will continue to stay closed until at least mid-February. 

READ MORE: Covid in Scotland: 71 deaths and 1165 new cases announced

"Our reluctant judgment is that community transmission of the virus is too high - and is likely to remain so for the next period - to allow a safe return to school on February 1," she told MSPs.

"The Cabinet decided today that - except for vulnerable and key worker children - school and nursery premises will remain closed until mid-February."

On February 2 she hopes to set out more of a clear timetable for school returns.

Nicola Sturgeon gave an update on lockdown and school returns

Giving an update on vaccination numbers, Sturgeon said that, assuming vaccine supplies meet expectations, Scotland will be “on track to be vaccinating 400,000 people a week by the end of February”.

She said more than 90% of care home residents, 70% of care home staff and 70% of all frontline health and care workers have received their first dose of a vaccine.

“That means that in around three months’ time, around three million people in total will have received at least the first dose of the vaccine,” she said.

“This is, of course, the majority of the adult population and includes everyone over the age of 50, and many younger people with an underlying health condition.”