NICOLA Sturgeon has told Scots planning to travel to parts of north west England facing new lockdown restrictions to “cancel their plans” and those returning from the region should “minimise their contact” with others for 14 days.

The move comes after parts of Greater Manchester, East Lancashire and West Yorkshire had restrictions placed on them by the UK Government in a bid to halt a surge in Covid-19 cases.

The First Minister warned that travel between Scotland and the affected area should only take place if absolutely essential, but has stopped short of a ban. Those returning to Scotland from the region should avoid going to indoor pubs and restaurants, Ms Sturgeon added.

The restrictions, announced by England’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock, means people in the affected areas are once again banned from meeting each other indoors.

The new rules also ban members of different households from mixing in pubs, restaurants and other hospitality venues – although businesses will remain open for those visiting individually or from the same household.

Mr Hancock said the UK Government has “demonstrated that we’re prepared to take the action that’s necessary to keep people safe”.

The First Minister, who held an emergency media briefing this afternoon in light of the situation, said the Scottish Government has “issued strong advice against non-essential travel” to the affected parts of England.

She added that the measure was an “important and necessary precaution” and is in place to “minimise the risk of spread from England into Scotland”, as well as helping communities in England suppress any spread of the virus.

The First Minister chaired a meeting of SGORR, the Scottish Government’s resilience committee, following an update from the Prime Minister to the four nations on the decision to introduce new measures to control the spread of the virus in the affected areas.

Ms Sturgeon added: “If you have already travelled to those areas from Scotland and are already there, I want to be clear that we are not asking you to cut short your visit.

“If you are planning to return home to Scotland from these areas, you can of course do this. But we are asking if and when you do so, then you are even more careful than normal on your return.

“We are asking you to minimise your contact with people outside of your own household for 14 days after you return. We are asking you to avoid, if at all possible, indoor hospitality and areas where you are more likely to come into contact with people outside of your own household.”

The areas affected are the city of Manchester, Trafford, Stockport, Oldham, Bury, Wigan, Bolton, Tameside, Rochdale, Salford – as well as Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley, Hyndburn, Pendle, Rossendale and Bradford, Calderdale and Kirklees.

The First Minister said the need for caution is more “obvious” now than it has been since the virus outbreak after daily figures showed 30 new cases in Scotland.

She particularly urged people in their 20s and 30s to follow lockdown rules as that age group makes up a higher proportion of new Covid-19 cases.

“Around half of the new cases we have seen in the last seven days or so have been in the 20 to 39 age group,” she said.

“That’s something we’ve seen in other parts of the world recently, younger age groups, perhaps people more likely to go to pubs and restaurants and meet up with friends, are testing positive in higher numbers.”

The outbreak has also forced Boris Johnson to postpone a planned easing of England’s lockdown as he warned the country “cannot be complacent”.

Measures due to be lifted south of the border from Saturday, including allowing small wedding receptions, re-opening bowling alleys and casinos and pilots of larger gatherings in sports venues, have been delayed for at least two weeks.

And in a strengthening of precautions, Mr Johnson announced that face coverings will become mandatory in indoor settings such as museums, galleries, cinemas and places of worship from August 8.

Scotland’s national clinical director, Professor Jason Leitch, said the increasing number of younger people across different parts of the world being infected with Covid-19 “worries me about indoor hospitality”, adding that “perhaps young people have just taken their foot off, just a little bit too early”.

He added: “The numbers in England have risen and therefore the UK Government, rightly, on the advice of their clinical advisors, has taken these steps.

“If you are already there, when you come home, we would like you to be really careful. We’d like you to avoid contact with other households, we’d like you to avoid hospitality if you possibly can.

“There is a higher risk you will have the virus if you have been there than if you haven’t - it is as simple as that.”