Clive Bull 1am - 4am
Luton and Blackburn designated 'areas of attention' after coronavirus cases spike
23 July 2020, 18:05
Luton and Blackburn have been designated as "areas of intervention" after a rise in coronavirus cases, sparking fears they could be the next areas to go into a local lockdown.
The two boroughs have now joined Leicester - which was the first city to go into a local lockdown - in reaching the highest levels on the watchlist, Sky News reports.
Luton has not been on the list by Public Health England, which has been set up to monitor the spread and aid the government's "whack-a-mole" strategy.
However, Luton Borough Council has already been urging those living in the area to get a coronavirus test, even if they do not have any symptoms.
According to PHE, and area of intervention is "where there is divergence from the measures in place in the rest of England because of the significance of the spread, with a detailed action plan in place, and local resources augmented with a national support".
It will be decided by the local councils what measures will be taken to try and bring the number of cases down.
Councillor Mohammed Khan urged the community to "keep up the momentum" in combating the disease as 122 new cases were recorded in the seven days to July 20.
Public Health England (PHE) has upgraded Blackburn with Darwen to an "area of intervention" following the increase, which was the highest at local level.
PHE defines such areas as those "where there is divergence from the measures in place in the rest of England because of the significance of the spread, with a detailed action plan in place, and local resources augmented with a national support".
Luton, in Bedfordshire, has also been upgraded to an "area of intervention", though its rate of cases has gone down.
"We are very grateful to our communities for working with us," said Mr Khan.
"The increase in testing is helping to ensure that we are heading in the right direction with a reduction in positive cases and hospital admissions.
"We need to keep up the momentum with our strong prevention work so we agree it's sensible not to relax the easing of restrictions at the moment to stop the spread.
Mr Khan added that the decision to delay the reopening of council leisure facilities would run alongside new "localised prevention measures".
"We feel that accelerating our control measures in this way will assist us to move out of having higher Covid rates even faster - we are grateful for the Government's help in our local plans on this," he said.
The rate of cases in Blackburn with Darwen has jumped from 49.7 cases per 100,000 in the seven days to July 13 to 81.9 in the seven days to July 20.
In Luton, the rate fell to 24.8 cases per 100,000 in the week to July 20 from 31.8 the previous week.
But Luton Borough Council said it had agreed with Government officials that gyms, pools, and other leisure facilities will not reopen as planned on 25 July.
Hazel Simmons, the council leader, said: "Our main priority is to protect Luton and these measures only serve to underline the importance of doing just that. Please pass these important messages on to your family and friends and if you can, stay at home.
"Fighting coronavirus is everyone's responsibility. Too many families and friends have lost loved ones and we must do everything we can to ensure more lives aren't wasted unnecessarily. There has been too much heartache in the town for us to risk further anguish, pain and suffering."