Blackburn is the ‘next Leicester’: Council limits number of people allowed to visit another household and says face masks should be worn in bid to prevent full local lockdown after coronavirus spike

  • Blackburn and Darwen Council has announced measures to curb Covid-19 spike 
  • Only two people can visit another home while face masks must be worn in public
  • Measures are in place to avoid a local lockdown, such as happened in Leicester
  • It comes following a spike in cases in Blackburn, with 61 new cases in a week 

Blackburn could be the next area to be plunged into local lockdown after a spike of coronavirus cases, it has been revealed today.

Civic chiefs in the Lancashire town are imposing new restrictions in a bid to prevent such measures as those put in place in Leicester following a Covid-19 outbreak in the Midlands city last month.

Blackburn with Darwen Council has today announced only two people can now visit another person at home.

Face coverings should be worn in enclosed public spaces with immediate effect, the council also said, while civic chiefs are encouraging people to swap handshakes for ‘elbow bumps’ to help reduce hand-to-hand contact.

The rules are set to stay in place for ‘at least a month’, the council has announced. 

It comes after 61 new cases were reported in the area within a week, while mass testing has now started, reports the BBC.

Civic chiefs in the Lancashire town are imposing new restrictions in a bid to prevent such measures as those put in place in Leicester (pictured: a member of the Armed Forces at a mobile testing centre in Leicester last month) following a Covid-19 outbreak in the Midlands city last month

It comes after Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed at the beginning of this month that while the government’s lockdown measures would be lifted for the rest of the country, they would be extended in Leicester (pictured: Members of the army work at a coronavirus testing station set up in Leicester) for at least two weeks after a dramatic surge in cases

The unitary authority, which responsible for all local council services in the area, is also encouraging people to get tested even if they don’t have symptoms.

In a statement issued today on the council’s website, Blackburn with Darwen’s public health director, Professor Dominic Harrison, said: ‘These steps will help and we are appealing to everyone in Blackburn with Darwen to follow them to protect themselves and their loved ones.

What rules have Blackburn with Darwen Council put in place? 

These are the rules which Blackburn with Darwen Council has announced today:  

  • A limit of 2 people from the same household allowed to visit another household
  • Please wear face coverings in all enclosed public spaces Avoid hugging or shaking hands with anyone outside of your immediate family
  • Small shops – we will be stepping up our Public Protection advice to ensure that guidelines around face coverings, social distancing, good hygiene and increased ventilation is being followed
  • Get tested – even if you don’t have symptoms this will help with case finding

‘If we don’t, a local lockdown, like in Leicester, becomes a very real possibility.

‘The council is working with the NHS and the wider community on this – it’s up to us all to help each other stick to the advice that’s been given.

‘We can only avoid further lockdown measures if we work together.’

Prof Harrison said data had shown a rise in infections in the South Asian community and noted there were ‘cluster infections’ among families living in small terraced houses.

The former mill town had a population of 117,963 according to a 2011 census, 148,850 when including Darwen, of whom around 62 per were recorded as ‘White’ and 34 per cent were recorded as ‘Asian’.

Prof Harrison said there would now be increased testing in the area and that the council could consider reversing the easing of the national lockdown laws in necessary.

Meanwhile, council leader Mohammed Khan said residents ‘must all make sacrifices to avoid a local lockdown’.

He said: ‘Please continue to do your bit to stick to the rules to protect yourself and your family.’

The warning comes after figures revealed the number of coronavirus infections for seven days up to July 10 in the Blackburn and Darwen area rocketed from 29.5 per 100,000 residents to 41 per 100,000 residents.

In nearby Pendle, which is under the authority of Pendle Borough Council and Lancarshire County Council, rose from 14.2 per 100,000 to 67.8 per 100,000.

The figures are still small compared to Leicester, where local lockdown measures were imposed, which has seen the rate fall from 156.8 per 100,000 in the seven days to 26 June, to 114.3 per 100,000 in the seven days to 10 July.

The warning comes after figures revealed the number of coronavirus infections for seven days up to July 10 in the Blackburn and Darwen area rocketed from 29.5 per 100,000 residents to 41 per 100,000 residents

On the figures, Prof Harrison said: ‘We know that people have been worried by the release of figures that show an increase in Coronavirus cases in Blackburn with Darwen, and don’t want a second lockdown to be introduced.

‘The council does not want the borough to be in that position either, which is why we are introducing these new measures to give everyone simple steps they can follow to do their bit to help keep the spread of the virus under control.’

Meanwhile, Lancashire County Council’s public health director, Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, told the Lancashire Telegraph: ‘These figures are an early warning sign that coronavirus has not gone away.

‘We all need to be cautious and keep to guidelines about social distancing, face coverings and handwashing to stop it coming back.’

The warning comes after Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed at the beginning of this month that while the government’s lockdown measures would be lifted for the rest of the country, they would be extended in Leicester for at least two weeks after a dramatic surge in cases.

While restaurants and bars were opened for the first time in three months across England on July 4, they remained shut in Leicester, while non-essential shops closed again two weeks after reopening following the introduction of the UK-wide lockdown measures in March. 

Leicester was earlier this month plunged back into a local lockdown after a spike in cases in the area 

Leicestershire County Council issued this map showing the area that will be subject to strict lockdown measures 

Schools were also shut again in the Leicester area amid fears the surge in cases was being driven by transmission among children.

Language barriers, high levels of diabetes and poverty among Leicester’s BAME residents were been blamed for the Covid-19 surge in the East Midlands city, while furious Leicester residents blamed an explosion in coronavirus cases on ‘idiots’ flouting social distancing rules

The local lockdown in Leicester is expected to last until at least July 18.

Following the announcement of the local lockdown in Leicester, Dr Bharat Pankhania, Senior Clinical Lecturer at University of Exeter Medical School predicted more cities will be locked down in the same way.

He said: ‘Going forward; six months, nine months from today, we will have outbreaks in Manchester, Birmingham – other big cities’.

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