No change to Preston's partial lockdown as public health boss issues new message

“Don’t mix or we’ll be in a fix” – that is the mantra which should guide everyday life in Lancashire as the county’s battle to contain the spread of coronavirus continues.

By Paul Faulkner
Friday, 21st August 2020, 4:31 pm
Updated Friday, 21st August 2020, 9:28 pm

The message was delivered by Lancashire's director of public health, Dr. Sakthi Karunanithi, as it was announced that partial lockdown restrictions introduced in Preston a fortnight ago – banning mixing between members of different households in homes, gardens and public indoor venues – will remain in force.

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However, other parts of the county will be amongst the first in the country to face a more targeted approach, which will see stricter measures introduced in the worst affected areas – even within the same district.

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Dr. Sakthi Karunanithi

That means parts of Blackburn will be subject to extra restrictions outlawing socialising in all settings with anybody other than those with whom you live, restricting numbers at major family gatherings like weddings to 20 people and recommending restaurants take bookings in advance for a maximum of six.

None of these rules - which come into force from midnight on 21st August - prevent people from shopping, going to work or attending child-care settings, including schools.

However, Darwen – part of the same council area as Blackburn – will come out of partial lockdown altogether and return to being governed by national rules, along with Rossendale.

Meanwhile, parts of Pendle will face the same additional measures as Blackburn, but the rest of the borough will remain under the same restrictions as are continuing Preston.

Lancashire County Council chief executive Angie Ridgwell admitted that the situation was “getting a little bit complicated” – and appealed to everybody to check the rules that applied in their area and stick to them to avoid the prospect of a blanket lockdown affecting more parts of the economy.

However, Dr. Karunanithi added that there was a simple underlying message that people should follow wherever they live in Lancashire – avoid mixing between households wherever there is the potential for it to occur.

“Whether it’s inside each other’s [homes] or in restaurants, workplaces or any indoor settings – that is the key behaviour that is giving the virus the chance to spread.

“Unfortunately, it tends to [spread] between the people that we love most – we don’t want the virus to be shared as a gift between friends and members of different households,” Dr. Karunanithi said.

Although Preston’s partial lockdown has not been lifted, the latest data shows that the Covid case rate – the number of confirmed infections per 100,000 people – is heading in the right direction and does not currently appear on track to hit the levels seen in East Lancashire.

In the seven days to 17th August, Preston’s case rate fell to 30.7, down from 45.4 a week earlier. Raw case numbers also fell from 65 to 44 over the same period.

However, Dr. Karunanithi said that residents in areas like Central Lancashire should “take notice” of how tougher restrictions were having to be introduced in some other parts of the county – and added that everyone had “a role to play” in stemming the spread of Covid-19.

He also said that all of the different measures being taken across the county right now were designed to ensure that the planned return to school next month would not be derailed.

The county’s public health boss did not rule out further hyperlocal measures in areas where they were deemed necessary – but admitted that it was a matter of striking a balance between “clarity and geography”.

“The rationale for limiting [restrictions in] specific geographies [is] not to have an effect in areas where there isn’t a high level of infection. If this approach doesn’t work, we may need to go for bigger geography [of intervention],” Dr. Karunanithi said.

He added that it was "a myth" to suggest a link between ethnicity and areas with higher Covid case numbers.

"What is actually driving this is that cases have been clustering in some wards [that] tend to be more associated with deprivation than ethnicity."

Meanwhile, Angie Ridgwell – who also chairs the Lancashire Resilience Forum, which is leading the county’s Covid response – issued a strong warning to businesses that are not sticking to the rules and making their operations as safe as they can be.

While she praised most firms for being “incredibly co-operative”, she added: “Where people don’t create a Covid secure environment for their customers and clients, we do have measures that we can use against them – and to protect those businesses that are being helpful, we would use those [powers] quite forcefully.”