Preston pulled into local lockdown after spike in coronavirus cases
Visitors to Preston Market earlier this week. (PA images)
The city of Preston will see a toughening of lockdown measures following a rise in coronavirus cases, it has been announced.
In an expansion of curbs imposed in other parts of northern England, people living in the Lancashire city — already deemed an “area of intervention” by the Government — will face restrictions on contact with people from outside their immediate household.
The changes come into force from midnight on Friday, and will bring Preston into line with Greater Manchester, west Yorkshire and other parts of east Lancashire.
Leicester, in the east midlands, remains subject to wide-ranging curbs following the latest review of its own lockdown.
Under the Preston restriction, which the Government said had come at the request of the local authority, separate households will be banned from meeting at each other’s homes and gardens.
Guidance will, the Department of Health said, “make clear that people should not be gathering with other households anywhere indoors“.
Announcing the move, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “The past week has been difficult for many people in Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire and East Lancashire, and I thank everyone in these areas for their patience and willingness to follow the rules.
“Yesterday I chaired a meeting of the Local Action Gold Committee, and unfortunately, the data does not yet show a decrease in the transmission of this terrible virus.
“It means we must keep the current restrictions in place to allow more time for the impact of this ban on indoor gatherings to be felt, and make sure local residents and their loved ones are protected. At the request of the local area we are also extending these restrictions to Preston.”
The Government said it would keep the Preston measures “under careful review” — but it warned that the local authority may impose “even stronger localised measures if the new rules on social gathering are not followed” by residents.
Preston City Council chief executive Adrian Phillips said: "The number of cases in Preston have increased rapidly in recent days leading to Government categorising the city as an area of intervention. It is also alarming to see that the under-30s are contracting it at a significant rate.
"It is clear that coronavirus is still here and we all need to work together to keep ourselves, our friends, families and communities safe from this virus.
"While some wards have recorded a higher level of cases, this remains a city-wide issue and it's essential that we all do our part to fight the virus.
"We're urging everyone to be diligent and follow the restrictions, in order to protect all of our residents, communities and businesses."
Public Health England’s latest weekly surveillance report on Covid-19 has meanwhile flagged Bedford and Swindon as “areas of concern”.
The move gives local authorities the power to take extra action to manage outbreaks, including targeted testing and ramp up their communications on social distancing.
The designation is a step below an “area of enhanced support” on the Government’s watchlist, the category at which lockdown measures are set at a more stringent level than the rest of England.
Oadby and Wigston will be downgraded to from that category to an “area of concern”, the Government said