Lancashire could be in the grip of strict coronavirus restrictions until the spring, Blackburn with Darwen’s public health director fears.

Professor Dominic Harrison believes a widespread semi-lockdown will be needed to combat the spread of Covid-19 throughout the winter.

He spoke out a tight new rules came in across most of the county from today (September 22) and after the government Chief Medical Officer Prof Chris Whitty warned at a Downing Street briefing of rising infection rates, hospitalisations and death unless action was taken now.

Weekend figures showed that Blackburn with Darwen had dropped below Rossendale, Hyndburn and Burnley to seventh in the national infection table despite a continuing slower rise in cases.

Prof Harrison said: “I expect to see tougher restrictions nationally before the end of the week.

“I think they will no longer be hyper-local but across wider geographical areas including the whole of Lancashire and Blackpool.

“They will be similar to the extra measures we have had since last month for eight wards in central and north Blackburn and in Nelson and Brierfield.

“I would expect these tighter restrictions to last through the winter when the cold weather comes, people stay indoors and infections rise as a result.

“I would not expect this partial lockdown to be lifted until March.

“We have seen Blackburn with Darwen, which used to come second or third, drop down the league table for infection rates despite a slight increase as other areas with lower rates have seen a sharp rise.

“I think we were ahead of the curve with the challenges the rest of the country is now facing regarding transmission within and between households but I do not expect an early exit for the borough as a result.

“We are learning about coronavirus all the time and I think the government has learnt from the first wave of the infection that action is needed earlier to control the second wave we are having now.

“I think that over the winter we are talking about containing the spread of coronavirus not defeating it.”

Prof Harrison’s Lancashire County Council counterpart Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, said: “I think the second wave of the virus has already arrived in the North-West but I would hope any new restrictions would not last over the winter.

“I expect they will be with us for four to six weeks but hope they could be reviewed and lifted in areas with lower infections rates.

“However Prof Whitty did say at the briefing that he did not expect infection rates nationally to fall for six months.”

The government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance told the Downing Street briefing that he feared that without action soon the UK could see 50,000 new coronavirus cases a day by mid-October leading to 200-plus deaths per day.

Cllr David Whipp, deputy leader of Pendle Council said: “It’s crucial we all play our part in trying to get the virus under control. We can all do this with these simple steps. Please, please, please do your part and keep our communities and our vulnerable people as safe as they possibly can be.”

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