Lancashire coronavirus restrictions 'ridiculous'

Coronavirus advisory notice on a billboard outside Blackburn Town Hall Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Blackburn had already brought in extra restrictions

The government has banned separate households in east Lancashire and other parts of northern England from meeting each other at home after a spike in Covid-19 cases. It's a move some residents have found frustrating - why can they go to the pub and mix with strangers, but not visit their mother over the road?

Under the new restrictions those living in separate households in Blackburn with Darwen, Pendle, Burnley, Hyndburn and Rossendale cannot meet indoors or in private gardens.

"You can't be with your extended family at home, but you can mix with strangers in a pub/cafe/restaurant?" Alexandra Staton wrote on Facebook.

"The guidelines are ridiculous."

Lancashire Council of Mosques said the hastily announced restrictions were a blow to Muslim communities poised to celebrate Eid.

Its chairman Rafiq Sufi said it was going to be "very, very difficult. I can't visit my mum and she lives across the road."

Image caption Mass testing in Blackburn began following a spike in infections

He continued: "We've been working very hard and we've been trying so much to make sure everything's Covid-19 safe.

"We've been bombarded with texts and messages and it's really difficult for us to try and explain to people that it's a decision for our own safety, but the timing is of such concern.

"The weather's going to be fantastic today and people were expecting to have parties and meet their relatives and suddenly this restriction comes in, it's going to be very, very difficult, but we have to abide by it."

Restrictions also affect Greater Manchester and areas of West Yorkshire.

The Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, said an "increasing rate of transmission" of coronavirus had been identified, and that it was largely due to households meeting and not sticking to social distancing measures.

Analysis - Daniel Wainwright, BBC England Data Unit

Although it is the eastern end of Lancashire that is subject to the tightened restrictions, other parts of the county have been seeing their cases rise too.

West Lancashire recorded 20 new cases in the week to 26 July, compared with five cases the week before, while the rate has also increased in Preston.

At the same time, Rossendale, which is included in the new lockdown, saw cases fall. However, Rossendale is next to places that have had increases, such as Blackburn with Darwen and Calderdale, or where rates are still high despite recent falls, such as Rochdale.

Image copyright Rossendale Borough Council
Image caption Alyson Barnes said Rossendale had been "mopped up" in the lockdown for geographic reasons

But the leader of Rossendale Borough Council, Alyson Barnes, said the "semi-rural area" had no cases of coronavirus last Thursday, which rose to one case last Friday, and the "figures were then seen to have doubled" putting them in a "red category".

She said: "The reality is we have some of the lowest figures in the country.

"We're having to absorb these new instructions this morning, it doesn't make any sense to me."

She said Rossendale had been "mopped up" in the lockdown for geographic reasons.

She added: "I think people in our area have been very compliant, but I think they will struggle to see sense in some of this when they know the figures locally are low."

The director of Public Health for Lancashire, Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, said it could be spreading because people did not realise they had it if they were asymptomatic.

Image copyright Dr Sakthi Karunanithi
Image caption Dr Karunanithi said people might not realise if they had coronavirus if they were asymptomatic

He said: "We are not seeing outbreaks in care homes and workplaces as we used to a couple of months ago. It appears to be more household clusters.

"One of the most common lines of thought is that people have asymptomatic infections and if you're not careful it could be passed to many households.

"The virus is still with us and we do need to keep a distance, that's the main thing that will keep the virus away.

"We cannot afford another surge."

The localised restrictions mean greatly looked forward to family reunions have been put on hold.

Christine Lomax said: "Our son, his wife and our grandchildren from London should have been here today.

"We haven't seen them for almost six months, so feeling pretty low."

But others were more accepting of them. Angela Roberts said: "If you want to save a loved one from catching this use your own common sense.

"If everyone did this we wouldn't be in this mess again. Don't blame the government, blame them who ignored the rules."

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