Preston on its best behaviour under new Covid lockdown rules
Preston has been on its best behaviour this weekend under new Covid rules, according to police and council chiefs.
Reports say the strict social distancing regulations brought in at midnight on Friday across the city have been followed by a vast majority of people.
And the top man at the Town Hall admitted today it was a case of so far, so good.
"We believe the overwhelming majority of people are determined to abide by the rules," said Adrian Phillips, the city council's chief executive.
"We need people to take it seriously and I think, generally, we are pleased with the compliance.
"The reports we have had are consistent across both Friday and Saturday nights - it has been quieter than usual."
With around half of new coronavirus cases locally affecting the under-30s, the emphasis has been on targeting the night-time economy.
Extra police patrols were in place in the city centre last night, with Preston MP Sir Mark Hendrick and Preston Council's deputy leader Coun Peter Moss both out and about with officers to see how revellers were behaving.
Preston Police later tweeted that at 12.30am today only around 400 people were in all the city's pubs and bars combined.
A spokesman for Lancashire Police revealed today: "There were no major issues in Preston (last night) and we are grateful to the majority who are adhering to the new regulations.
"We will continue to have a presence and engage and explain to people that we are there to keep them safe and will continue to work with partners.
"When we need to take action, for repeat offenders and those who deliberately flout the rules, we won't hesitate."
Many licensed premises in the city have been visited by officers and, by and large, they have been keeping closely to the new regulations.
But, despite demands nationally for pubs and bars to be closed down to keep the virus in check, Preston Council says it is not calling for a ban, despite the city being highlighted in the national media following the local lockdown.
"A blanket ban would be enormously damaging to that industry," said Adrian Phillips. "People want to go out and they have embraced the rules of lockdown. So we are not asking for a blanket ban.
"We need our pubs to be Covid safe. And we believe an overwhelming majority are determined to abide by the rules because they see the future of their business is at stake here. So they are highly motivated to comply."
Mr Phillips said the under-30s were "a concern." And the publicity nationally about the re-opening of the Switch nightspot in the city centre - where hundreds of young people gathered last weekend - had put Preston in the nation's spotlight.
"That notoriety didn't help us," he said. "Obviously we want people to be vigilant in Preston. Operators (pubs and bars) try really hard and they get annoyed when a minority aren't complying.
"It's a safe Preston that we are all after. We have been at this since March when the lockdown was announced nationally. Unfortunately we may still be doing it next March.
"The challenge is enormous. We are putting significant efforts in and we will continue doing that. But it is a balancing act between lockdown restrictions and keeping control of the problem.
"The fear is of an enormous rise. And we are concerned that people have forgotten about the consequences. It's not just a bad cold this. We have seen significant numbers of deaths and we want to prevent any more.
"Anyone catching this virus is one person too many. So we are trying to get the message across to everyone and to ask for their support.
"Hopefully this is Proud Preston time - it's time for people to dig in and let's get this sorted. It's a job for all of us and we need people to take it seriously and abide by these sensible rules.
"I understand the anxiety felt by residents. But the virus is on the rise and we see it as a threat to Preston at the moment and to our way of life."