Could Government's new mini-lockdowns spread across Lancashire as Indian variant cases rise?

Lancashire's Covid team is having urgent talks with Government officials later today after parts of the county found themselves in a mini-lockdown due to the spread of the Indian variant.

Queues for vaccination in Bolton which has the highest Covid rate in the country.
Queues for vaccination in Bolton which has the highest Covid rate in the country.

Council chiefs and public health bosses who make up the Lancashire Resilience Forum say they need to speak to Whitehall before commenting on what some politicians are calling "local lockdown by stealth."

The Government introduced measures in Blackburn with Darwen and Burnley late on Friday urging residents not to travel to other areas and to avoid meeting indoors.

Eight other districts in England, including Bolton, were also included in the new advice. And, while Chorley is so far unaffected, it is now in the top 10 areas of the country with the highest Covid infection rates.

Sir Mark Hendrick thinks the travel restrictions will affect Preston soon

The move drew widespread criticism today when local leaders claimed they had not been consulted about the new travel ban, nor warned of it.

Professor Dominic Harrison who is Joint Director of Public Health for Blackburn with Darwen and holds an academic post with the University of Central Lancashire, said: "Local government areas involved were not consulted with, warned of, notified of, or alerted to this guidance.

"I have asked to see the national risk assessment which supports this action - it has not been provided yet."

Preston MP Sir Mark Hendrick said today he believes the travel restrictions - which are currently advisory not enforceable - will almost certainly be extended to take in more parts of Lancashire due to the spread of the Indian variant.

Staff at the vaccination unit in Preston's St John's Shopping Centre celebrate Lancashire passing the one million jab mark.

"I'm sure it will affect Preston and other areas because people are in the same travel to work area with lots living in Blackburn, Burnley and Bolton and working in Preston and vice versa.

"(Boris) Johnson has made it plain from some time back that the last lockdown was the final lockdown because the vaccination programme is making good progress and reducing the occurrence of the disease.

"But it's one thing to say we are not going to do that again and another when the data says otherwise.

"I don't think he will be successful because it is not enforceable in any way. While some people will take the advice, a significant number of others won't. And I just think it is going to make it worse.

"I wouldn't rule out another proper lockdown to be honest if we don't get a grip of this new variant and we will be back where we were."