Preston is 'on radar' for local lockdown, warns Lancashire's director of public health
Preston is 'on radar' for a local lockdown and has been 'put on notice', according to those leading the city's battle against coronavirus.
This was the stark warning from a local government press conference held this morning (July 31) in response to the lockdown imposed on East Lancashire overnight.
The urgent meeting had been called by Lancashire Resilience Forum, the alliance of organisations charged with tackling the pandemic in the county.
"We are all on notice now," warned Angie Ridgwell, the chief executive of Lancashire County Council.
She said: "If we don't all do our part to reduce the spread of infection immediately then I think its fair to say that we are all being put on notice now.
"If things don't improve, we can expect to see further restrictions introduced."
Mrs Ridgewell's ominous warning that the whole of Lancashire has been 'put on notice' was echoed by the Council's director of public health, Dr Sakthi Karunanithi.
"Preston is definitely on our radar", said Dr Karunanithi, who revealed that the city’s local coronavirus emergency response plan has already been activated.
"It is clear that infections are increasing across the city and we do expect further surges and spikes in infection rates in other areas."
In the seven days to July 26, Preston's infection rate was 21.2 cases per 100,000 people.
This was up from 9.9 cases per 100,000 people in the week before. To date, there has been a total of 1,211 confirmed cases recorded in the city.
Meanwhile, the total across Lancashire - including Blackpool and Blackburn - stands at 9,499.
"We are putting precautions in place to try and mitigate this," said Dr Karunanithi.
"We are advising the same precautions introduced in East Lancashire are followed elsewhere in the county."
He said this means everyone in Lancashire should:
- Avoid having visitors in our homes
- Always wear a face covering in public spaces, including outdoors and in places of worship
- Get tested if you have symptoms, even if they are mild
- Regularly washing and sanitising hands and giving each other enough space to social distance
"Though we are not in lockdown (in the rest of Lancashire) we are escalating preparations and we will be reviewing our response weekly in collaboration with the Government.
"The advice is the same in Preston, though it is not legally enforceable, but we urge everyone to do what they can to help reduce social contact and reduce the spread of infection."
"We are constantly monitoring the situation in Preston and if this situation persists I would expect to see these lockdown restrictions introduced elsewhere in the county, in Preston and neighbouring areas."
Adrian Phillips, chief executive at Preston City Council, has also urged the city's residents to take extra precautions to avoid a local lockdown.
He said: "We all – young and old alike - have a role to play in keeping ourselves, our friends, families and communities safe from this virus.
"None of us want a local lockdown to be introduced, and so, following a spike in cases we are proactively working with partners to prevent the situation from worsening.
"We’re urging everyone to be diligent and play their part. Right now that means as well as washing hands and giving each other space, we are asking you to help us protect our city by taking these additional measures.
"It is not over yet, but we can work together to minimise the risk for Preston."
How long will lockdown in East Lancashire last?
Dr Karunanithi said he expects the East Lancashire lockdown to last for "at least two weeks", but any lifting of the restrictions would only be permitted based on a significant reduction in the cases.
But he conceded that the lockdown could last longer.
"It is my opinion that we will see more lockdowns across the country in the weeks and months to come, but the duration of lockdowns will vary from place to place, depending on how people adhere to the guidance."
Those without symptoms are also being urged to get tested
He added that there has been a notable shift in new cases from older people, including those in care settings, to younger people.
He said there is concern that more younger people might be asymptomatic and there is a danger that they might be introducing the virus to households they share with older relatives.
Dominic Harrison, director of public health for Blackburn with Darwen, also encouraged those who are not showing symptoms to volunteer to be tested.
He said: "It is becoming apparent that there might be an increase in those who are asymptomatic, especially younger people, who are showing no symptoms at all and may not realise they are infected.
"Therefore, we invite more people to get tested to help us understand the extent of these asymptomatic cases that we think might be contributing to the spread of the virus."