Lancashire lockdown: This is what we might expect if the Government imposes county-wide restrictions today
If the Government decides to put Lancashire under a county-wide lockdown this weekend, these are some of the new rules that could come into force.
Stricter local lockdown restrictions might come into force in parts of Lancashire from tomorrow (Saturday, September 19), in response to a steep rise in coronavirus cases.
COVID-19 infection rates in some parts of Lancashire are now among the highest in the country, and this might prompt the Government to escalate parts of the county to "areas of intervention".
This would mean further restrictions, with most social contact likely to be limited even further in homes, gardens, parks and other public spaces, including pubs and restaurants.
Such measures might be considered necessary to curb the rising infection rate in parts of Lancashire, after the county recorded its largest daily rise in new cases to date yesterday (Thursday, September 17) with 250 people testing positive.
Preston recorded a new high for the third day in a row, with a total of 193 positive tests recorded in the city council area in the seven days to September 14, up from 134 over the previous week. This makes Preston the third-worst affected area of England as of today.
The surge in new cases comes as Lancashire awaits the usual Friday review which will decide whether the county requires additional restrictions to help stem the outbreak.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock is expected to make an official announcement sometime today, in response to these concerns.
On Thursday, the Government announced that more than two million people in the North East will be put under much stricter measures than those that currently apply in Preston - even though case rates in all of the affected areas are far lower than in Preston.
The North East restrictions include the outlawing of household mixing even in outdoor public spaces, as well the closure of pubs and other leisure venues at 10pm each night.
This is what we might expect from new lockdown restrictions in Lancashire, if the Government does decide to impose stricter measures later today.
When would the new restrictions take effect?
If the new local restrictions were to come into force, they are likely to be announced later today (Friday) and come into force on Saturday.
Where would the restrictions apply?
The new rules would most likely apply to Preston, South Ribble, Chorley, Ribble Valley, Wyre, Fylde, Lancaster, Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley, Pendle, Rossendale, Hyndburn and parts of Blackpool as these areas are all recording a spike in new cases.
What would the rules be?
If health secretary Matt Hancock does make Lancashire a county-wide "area of intervention", the following rules might apply in the affected areas:
- People could be banned from socialising with others outside of their own households or support bubbles, including in gardens, parks, restaurants and pubs (including beer gardens)
*Household mixing in Preston, including in homes, gardens and most public indoor spaces, has already been banned in the city for more than a month.
- Curbs could come into force on public transport, with advice urging people to use buses and trains only for essential trips such as education, work, and health appointments
- But plans for 10pm curfews for bars, pubs, and restaurants - as is the case in Bolton and the North East - are not expected to be imposed at this stage
Will schools stay open?
Schools are not expected to close under any new restrictions, despite an influx in cases at the county's schools and colleges in the past two weeks.
Do I still have to go into work?
Any new restrictions are not expected to affect working arrangements, with people who live inside or outside of the affected areas still free to travel in and out of those areas for work.
Can I meet my family and friends in a pub?
Any new rules are likely to further reduce social contact, and will likely forbid people socialising outside of their own households, or support bubbles, and in all public venues, including pubs and restaurants.
This would also likely include cafes, shops, places of worship, community centres, leisure and entertainment venues, and visitor attractions and parks.
How long are these restrictions likely to last?
Local lockdowns are under constant weekly reviews, with the Government monitoring the rate of infections in each area.
There is no set level of infection that triggers a local lockdown, but areas with more than 40 cases per 100,000 people are likely to see extra restrictions considered.
Several areas in Lancashire are currently well above this level, with Preston suffering from a Covid case rate of 134.8 per 100,000 people, according to Press Association analysis of Public Health England data. This makes Preston the third-worst affected area of England.
Other areas with high case rates include Hyndburn with 132.0 cases per 100,000 people, Blackburn with Darwen (120.2) and Rossendale (96.5).
The Government says these infection rates must fall to a safer level before any restrictions can start to be eased again.