Lancashire Times
A Voice of the North
2:06 AM 16th October 2020

Local Covid Alert Level Update For Lancashire

Following close discussions with local leaders, Lancashire will move from local COVID alert level high to very high from Saturday 17 October.

This means that new measures will come into place including:

people must not socialise with anybody they do not live with, or have formed a support bubble with, in any indoor setting or in any private garden or at most outdoor hospitality venues and ticketed events
people must not socialise in a group of more than 6 in an outdoor public space such as a park or beach, the countryside, a public garden or a sports venue
all pubs and bars must close, unless they are serving substantial meals
people should try to avoid travelling outside the very high alert level or entering a very high alert level area other than for work, education or for caring responsibilities or to travel through as part of a longer journey
residents should avoid staying overnight in another part of the UK, and others should avoid staying overnight in the very high alert area

In addition, following discussions with local leaders it was agreed that from Monday 19 October:

the adult gaming industry, casinos, bingo halls, bookmakers and betting shops, and soft play areas must close
car boot sales would not be permitted

The rate of COVID-19 infections is rising rapidly across the UK. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimate that one in every 240 people in England had the virus in the week from 25 September to 1 October and that the numbers infected are doubling every 7 to 12 days. Cases are not evenly spread, with infection rates rising more rapidly in some areas than others.

In Lancashire, infection rates are among the highest in the country and continuing to rise rapidly. Rates are highest for those aged 16 to 29 at 552 per 100,000 people, while in the most vulnerable age group, those aged over 60, cases stand at 214 per 100,000 people. This increases to 594 per 100,000 for the over 60s in Burnley and 671 per 100,000 for 16 to 29 year olds.

Hospitalisations can occur 2 to 3 weeks after someone is infected with the virus, meaning we anticipate the number of patients in hospital in Lancashire to rise.

The number of patients with COVID-19 in intensive-care beds has reached nearly half the number seen at the height of the pandemic earlier this year, and the latest data suggests there will be more people in mechanical ventilation beds in Lancashire within 2 weeks than there were in the first wave. This is as a result of infections which have already happened, rather than a prediction, underlining the need for urgent action now to prevent the epidemic in Lancashire rising even further.

To support the local authority during this period the government will be providing a support package worth £12 million. The government will also establish a dedicated, ministerial-led taskforce with additional funding to work with Lancashire leaders to support local businesses to recover over the coming 6 months.

Local COVID alert level very high will take effect across all parts of Lancashire:

Blackburn with Darwen
Ribble Valley
South Ribble
West Lancashire

These measures will be reviewed every 14 days to consider whether they are still appropriate.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said:

"An unrelenting rise in cases in Lancashire means we must act now, and we have worked intensively with local leaders to agree on additional restrictions.

"I know how heavy these additional challenges will weigh on everyday life for the people of Lancashire – but they are critical in bringing this virus under control.

"Without them, we risk the health of your loved ones, your most vulnerable, and your local NHS services. Now is the time to play your part, and we will make sure you are supported."

The first peak demonstrated that the infection can spread fast and put huge pressure on the NHS and already hospitals in Lancashire are beginning to see sharp increases in admissions, especially in elderly patients. Local leaders have therefore agreed to bring in new tougher measures to protect their local residents.

All available data for the areas that will move to local COVID alert level very high on Saturday has been assessed by the government, including the Health and Social Care Secretary, NHS Test and Trace, the Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC), Public Health England (PHE), the Chief Medical Officer and the Cabinet Office. Data assessed includes incidence, test positivity and the growth rate of the virus.