Blackburn with Darwen Council has introduced five new local measures to control the spread of coronavirus, including wearing masks in all enclosed public spaces.
The measures came into effect yesterday and are aimed at helping avoid a local lockdown by getting a grip on the increase in cases of the virus.
The council has also recommended a limit of two people from the same household allowed to visit another household. Residents are asked to limit the numbers of people meeting indoors to people who live in the same house plus only two members from a second household at any one time.
Rather than give handshakes or a hug, residents are asked to only bump elbows with anyone outside of their immediate family.
The council is also stepping up its public protection advice and support to small shops across the borough to ensure that measures such as wearing face coverings, social distancing, good hygiene practices and increased ventilation are being followed to help reduce the risk of virus spread.
Targeted testing is also being increased, with the arrival of a mobile testing unit at Wilton Park Academy, in addition to testing facilities already in place at Royal Blackburn Hospital. The new local measures will be in place for the next month.
The council is currently the fourth worst-affected local authority in England, with coronavirus cases at around 40 per 100,000. The borough also has a higher positivity rate from testing, which is currently 7% - this is the rate of confirmed cases per 100,000 as a percentage of all who take a test. The national average is 2-5%.
Health officials have said 85% of the 114 confirmed coronavirus cases in the borough in the two weeks to 11 July were from south Asian heritage communities. A fifth of the cases were people aged 19 and under.
The council’s director of public health Professor Dominic Harrison said: ‘These steps will help and we are appealing to everyone in Blackburn with Darwen to follow them to protect themselves and their loved ones. If we don’t a local lockdown, like in Leicester, becomes a very real possibility.
‘The council is working with the NHS and the wider community on this – it’s up to us all to help each other stick to the advice that’s been given. We can only avoid further lockdown measures if we work together.
‘In the next week to 10 days, we will see a rise in the number of cases in the borough due to the increased targeted testing we are doing in the communities most at risk, and because we have opened a Pillar 2 testing site next to the hospital last week.
‘In another two weeks, if the rates are continuing to rise, we will have to consider reversing some of the national lockdown measures locally one by one until we see a reversal in the current rising trent. It’s up to everyone to make sure we don’t have to do that.’
Leader of the council Cllr Mohammed Khan said: ‘I can reassure all local residents that the council is working with different agencies and organisations across the borough to help get the message out to everyone that life cannot go back to normal just yet, and we must all make sacrifices to avoid a local lockdown.
‘We are doing everything we can to get a grip on the virus, and we need everyone in Blackburn with Darwen to pull together to help us. Please continue to do your bit to stick to the rules to protect yourself and your family.’