LOCAL authorities have enforced a limit on the number of people allowed to visit a household in the town of Blackburn With Darwen in an effort to avoid a Leicester-style lockdown.
The move is among new measures introduced to curb the spread of infection in the Lancashire authority amidst a worrying spike in coronavirus cases.
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The measures were announced yesterday by the Lancashire authority's director of public health Dominic Harrison.
The restrictions include a limit of two people from the same household allowed to visit another home.
And as part of the new rules, residents are being told to wear cloth face coverings in all enclosed public spaces, including workplaces, libraries, museums, health centres and hair and beauty salons.
Health officials also called on locals to "elbow bump" with anyone outside of their immediate family, while small shops will be given updated public protection advice to ensure social distancing.
A mobile testing unit has also been set up at Witton Park Academy in the area, as well as a facility at Royal Blackburn Hospital.
Residents have also been told they do not need to have symptoms to take a test.
The measures come as cases have soared in the area, with 61 new cases appearing last week.
Figures published yesterday showed that Blackburn had 47 cases per 100,000 people in the seven days to July 11.
This marked a significant increase from 31.6 cases per 100,000 in the seven days to July 4.
It puts the authority at third on the list of highest weekly rates, but still behind Leicester which has a rate of 118.2 cases per 100,000.
Leicester went back into lockdown on June 30 after a spike in infections, with all non-essential retail stores closed as well as hospitality venues which reopened in the rest of the UK on July 4.
Last weekend, the government drew up a list of 20 councils facing the worst outbreaks in England – which included Blackburn With Darwen as well as Bradford, Kirklees and Rochdale.
Government officials have not yet laid out what metrics will be used to impose further lockdowns.
However, The Guardian reports that ministers are considering a threshold of 50 weekly positive tests per 100,000 people, based on a scheme rolled out in Germany.
Mr Harrison said it was "up to everyone" in the town to ensure a dreaded local lockdown was avoided.
He said: "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.
"We can only avoid further lockdown measures if we work together."
He added that a rise in targeted testing would spark a surge in case numbers in the next week to ten days.
But should these continue to rise after two weeks, authorities would "consider reversing some of the national lockdown lifting measures locally one by one".
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.
"We are doing everything we can to get a grip on the virus, and we need everyone in Blackburn with Darwen to pull together to help us.
"Please continue to do your bit to stick to the rules to protect yourself and your family."
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