The Lancashire borough of Pendle is at risk of retreating back into lockdown because the coronavirus is spreading out of control there, local health officials have warned.
Director of public health for Lancashire, Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, has given an ‘early warning’ for people to wash their hands often, keep social distancing and wear masks in indoor public places.
The council said: ‘The overall rate and number of cases remains relatively low, but there are signs of ongoing household transmission’.
Dr Karunanithi admitted there had been a ‘slight increase’ in Covid-19 cases and said ‘We need your help now to… keep Pendle out of lockdown’.
The borough, home to around 92,000 people, sits just north of Burnley and near the edge of the Yorkshire Dales.
It had an infection rate of 73 new cases per 100,000 people in the week ending July 12, putting it second only to Leicester, the only area to have had a local lockdown.
The news comes as officials in Blackburn have placed new restrictions on residents meaning only two at a time will be able to visit other households. This differs from the national guidance, which says two households of any size can meet inside.
In the Blackburn with Darwen authority, where 85 per cent of the 114 new cases in a week were among its South Asian community, people have also been urged not to hug anyone they don’t live with and to get regularly tested for coronavirus.
Mobile testing centres for anyone to use have been set up both in Blackburn and Pendle to help health authorities wrestle back rising numbers of Covid-19 cases before lockdowns are needed.
Cases in Blackburn with Darwen have soared from around 20 per 100,000 population to a rate of 47 since June 24
A mobile testing centre at Witton Park High School in Blackburn with Darwen. Residents are being encouraged to get tested even if they don’t have symptoms
Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, director of public health for Lancashire, said in a statement yesterday: ‘We need your help now to reduce the number of cases in the future and keep Pendle out of lockdown.
‘With the slight increase in the Covid-19 infection rate in Pendle, it’s really important to stay alert to the risks. We should all do what we can to limit the spread of infection.
‘It can feel like things are back to normal, but we are still in the middle of a pandemic and there is risk for the virus to come back.
‘Wash your hands thoroughly and regularly, respect any safety measures when you’re going out and maintain the two metre distance wherever possible.
‘And don’t forget to wear a mask in enclosed spaces.
‘By doing what you can to help yourself and the people who are important to you, you can still do things that you enjoy.
‘If you have symptoms, it’s very important to stay at home, get yourself tested and follow the advice from the NHS Test and Trace service.
‘Please share this advice with your family, friends and work colleagues. It’s important that we get the message out and work together to keep our communities safe.’
Dominic Harrison, the Blackburn with Darwen director of public health, told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: ‘We have what we call a rising tide event rather than an outbreak.
‘We have a number of cases rising in specific areas across a significant community but not a single big outbreak like Kirklees or other areas that had a workplace outbreak.
‘What we’re seeing from looking at postcode data is a single case being infected then going back to a household and all of that household getting infected.
Customers wearing face masks socially distance as they queue to enter a NatWest bank in Blackburn today
Mask-clad shoppers in Blackburn this morning, following news the area could see lockdown lifting measures reversed
85 per cent of the authority’s new cases have been people from South Asian backgrounds. That’s despite the South Asian community only accounting for 30 per cent of the council’s 150,000 population (pictured, Blackburn’s town centre)
Latest Public Health England (PHE) data shows Blackburn with Darwen (shown) has 47 Covid-19 cases per 100,000 population in the last week — second only to Leicester’s rate of 101.3
‘And when we look at that data we can see clusters in a part of the town but the clusters are household clusters and a number of those are causing the rising tide event.
What rules have Blackburn with Darwen Council put in place?
These are the rules which Blackburn with Darwen Council has announced today:
- A limit of 2 people from the same household allowed to visit another household
- Please wear face coverings in all enclosed public spaces
- Avoid hugging or shaking hands with anyone outside of your immediate family
- Small shops – we will be stepping up our Public Protection advice to ensure that guidelines around face coverings, social distancing, good hygiene and increased ventilation is being followed
- Get tested – even if you don’t have symptoms this will help with case finding
‘We know they are mainly in South Asian areas and they’re in areas with a high number of terraced houses with high numbers of occupants in the house — four or five or more.
‘We’ve had 114 new cases in the last two weeks and about 97 of those are South Asian.’
Health Secretary Matt Hancock welcomed the extra measures introduced in Blackburn. He told BBC Breakfast: ‘On Blackburn, I think that the council there are doing a fantastic job.
‘There is a higher rate of Covid in Blackburn than the average across the country, it’s not as high as in Leicester. We’ve gone in and are supporting them, working with them, for instance put in much more testing. And then they’ve taken these steps locally and I applaud that.
‘This is exactly the sort of local action we want to see.’
A mountain of evidence has shown Britons from black, Asian and ethnic minority (BAME) backgrounds are more likely to contract the disease and die from it than white people.
Scientists have yet to pin down exactly why minority groups are at a heightened risk of infection.
Dominic Harrison, Blackburn with Darwen’s director of public health
But they believe it may be partly explained by minority groups being more likely to live in deprived areas, live in large households and use public transport, where they interact with more potential carriers of the disease.
People from minority backgrounds are also more likely to have underlying health conditions, which is often related to poverty.
But experts say this can’t explain the whole story and increased rates of vitamin D deficiency among minorities are being investigated.
Blackburn with Darwen residents are now being told to wear face coverings in all enclosed public settings — including at work, hair dressers, beauty salons, pubs, libraries and museums.
People are being encouraged to bump elbows with other people out with their immediately family instead of hugging or embracing them.
For the next month, Blackburn with Darwen residents will have to elbow bump instead of hugging or embracing people from outwith their immediately family (Boris greeting staff at the London Ambulance Service NHS Trust on Monday)
Blackburn with Darwen Council (pictured: an aerial view of the council building) yesterday announced only two people can now visit another person at home
The council is also offering advice to small shops which struggle to enforce social distancing to help make them more ‘Covid secure’ (file)
Testing has also been made available to anyone who wants one, with residents being actively encouraged to take a swab even if they don’t have symptoms.
And only two people from the same family are now permitted to visit another household indoors.
WHICH AREAS OF ENGLAND HAVE THE HIGHEST INFECTION RATES CURRENTLY?
Blackburn with Darwen
Figures relate to the number of new coronavirus cases diagnosed for every 100,000 people living in each local authority between July 6 and 12.
This differs from the national guidance, which says two households of any size can meet inside.
The council is also carrying out inspections on small corner shops and offering advice to those which struggle to enforce social distancing to help make them more ‘Covid secure’.
Professor Harrison said he was particularly worried about these shops because many older people from South Asian backgrounds go shopping every day for fresh food.
Professor Harrison added: ‘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.’
He said the official number of cases may rise quite dramatically in the next week – but told the public not to panic because this will be due to increased testing.
But if cases continue to rise after two weeks, then a localised lockdown would have to be considered to contain the virus’ spread.
Professor Harrison said it would be a gradual reimposing of the measures, rather than a blanket lockdown like was seen in Leicester.
Blackburn with Darwen has not yet seen a rise in coronavirus hospital admissions, which suggests the rise in cases in recent.
Professor Harrison said this boosts the council’s chances of containing the new resurgence before it spirals out of control.
He said there was no evidence of workplace outbreaks or widespread transmission within schools.
Council leader 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.
‘Please continue to do your bit to stick to the rules to protect yourself and your family.’
Rate of Covid-19 infection in England dropped in May BEFORE lockdown restrictions were lifted
The rate of coronavirus infection in England was significantly reduced before lockdown restrictions were lifted, a government study has found.
More than 120,000 volunteers were tested across England in the month of May as part of the country’s largest coronavirus surveillance study.
Every infected person was passing the virus on to 0.57 people during May, just before schools and shops re-opened, the results show.
The finding is significantly lower than what was estimated by the Government at the time — between 0.7 and one —and proves the lockdown was effective at curbing the spread of the virus.
The reproduction rate — the average number of people each Covid-19 patient infects — was expected to be 2.4 before lockdown started.
The research, run by Imperial College London, also gives an insight into who was more likely to catch the coronavirus in May.
Young adults aged between 18 and 24, people of Asian ethnicity, and care home workers were most likely to test positive for Covid-19.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the study, which has been repeated in June, is crucial to the country’s ongoing battle with coronavirus.
‘This ambitious testing programme will help us better understand the spread of the virus to date, predict how it may spread in the future and inform our response to the pandemic,’ he said.
‘It shows the impact our national lockdown efforts have had and demonstrates that we have taken the right actions at the right time.’