TODAY Professor Dominic Harrison, Blackburn with Darwen's public health boss, launches a weekly column on the coronavirus outbreak and what it means for borough residents.


As your Director of Public health and Wellbeing, I am very grateful to the Lancashire Telegraph for giving me this opportunity to keep you updated on what is happening with the coronavirus pandemic across our local communities. I will update you on how the pandemic is evolving locally, what local public services are doing about it, and how you can protect yourselves, your family and your community.

The coronavirus will change all of our lives. We can all expect someone in our family, our street, our workplace or our children’s school to be infected with the virus. This will become the new normal. At least 40% of those infected may show no symptoms at all and will be completely unaware either that they are infectious or that they have had the virus. The reasonable worst case scenario is that between 50-80% of us may be infected over the next year. The overwhelming majority of us who do get infected (99%) will live to tell the tale. The virus seems to be spreading faster in bigger cities with London ahead of the country.

Our best guess is that the number of people infected will peak sometime between the end of May and the end of June with the epidemic peak reducing towards the end of July. Our estimates on this will get better as we get more data. After July, there will be continuing infections with a possible second peak sometime between October and December, although this peak will be smaller than the first.

The good news for Pennine Lancashire is that we are behind the curve. As I write this on Wednesday 18th March we have had a first case confirmed in a Blackburn with Darwen resident- many other Local Authority areas already have a number of cases. This was a male with a history of travel to Italy. He is already feeling better and did not attend a healthcare setting. This later notice of a first case gives us a precious few weeks grace to get NHS, Council and community services ready to meet the challenge

The biggest single thing we can do to protect ourselves and others is wash our hands as much as possible. How much? Well-I have set myself a personal target of 25 times a day!