FORTH VALLEY councils have joined forces with the area’s health board to urge all of their residents to adhere to the Scottish Government’s coronavirus restrictions.

The first minister has confirmed that Stirling will move to Level 4 restrictions as of 6pm on Friday, November 20 – the most stringent protection level under the framework.

The level 4 restrictions will run until Friday, December 11.

Falkirk and Clackmannanshire Council areas will remain in level 3.

Positive cases continue to rise in Stirling and all three councils are closely linked through the NHS Forth Valley Health Board, business and trade and essential service delivery across each local authority area.

This includes the provision of education at St Modan’s High School, which serves all three council areas.

Cllr Ellen Forson, leader of Clackmannanshire Council, said: “We remain in Level 3 in Clackmannanshire but as we have seen elsewhere in Scotland, that can change quickly, therefore we need to remain vigilant.

“It is essential that we stick with it and follow Scottish Government advice; in particular I would urge all citizens to continue to avoid crowded places, keep two metres apart and wash your hands often.

“Along with that we need to keep to all the Level 3 rules, and that means no non-essential travel outwith Clackmannanshire – including to Stirling - except for essential purposes such as work that cannot be done from home, education, caring and childcare.

“I know that this has been an incredibly hard year for everyone, however we really do need to keep to the rules, particularly if the prospect of enjoying some time with loved ones this festive season is to be possible.”

Stirling Council leader, Cllr Scott Farmer, said: “Whilst this was a scenario we all hoped to avoid, the continued increase of positive Covid cases across Stirling has made this situation inevitable.

“Action had to be taken now if we’re to have any hope of saving Christmas.

“Our daily case number is more than three times the WHO recommendation for virus containment, we are witnessing significant outbreaks in care homes, schools and local businesses in the heart of our communities and this is leading to community transfer and, tragically, death.

“Increasing cases also puts additional pressure on NHS Forth Valley at a time when the burden is rising as winter takes hold and flu starts to spread.

“We have already suffered too many tragic losses this year and we must now all work together to follow the stricter Level 4 rules and prevent any more.

“Please, do not travel between the council areas unless it’s absolutely essential and help us stop the spread of coronavirus across Stirling and Forth Valley.”

Councillor Cecil Meiklejohn, leader of Falkirk Council said: “The most recent announcement by the first minister still shows that despite everyone’s best efforts, we still need to pay attention to the guidance being provided.

“Remaining at tier three in Falkirk is to be welcomed however, there is absolutely no room for complacency and everyone should keep in mind that we have to continue to work hard to reduce infection levels by following advice on travel, distancing and hygiene.

“If we can follow this guidance then hopefully we can help reduce the infection rates as well as help to protect our NHS workers.”

Dr Graham Foster, NHS Forth Valley’s director of public health, said: “I would like to thank everyone who has followed the guidance so far in an effort to try to limit the number of Covid-19 cases.

“Unfortunately, it has not been possible to stem the spread within local communities and the levels are still too high across the whole of Forth Valley, particularly in the Stirling area where there has been a significant increase in the last few weeks.

“Now that Stirling has been placed in Level 4, the highest level of Covid-19 protection measures and both Falkirk and Clackmannanshire remain in Level 3, I am calling for your help and urging you not to travel between the different local council areas in Forth Valley.

“I know it will be very tempting to travel to other local areas or further afield, especially in the run up to Christmas.

“But If we can all follow the rules for just three weeks, especially by staying two metres apart even at work, and by not visiting each other’s homes, it will give us the best chance of having fewer restrictions in December and a happier Christmas.”