A HEALTH boss has warned of a localised outbreak of coronavirus in the North-West as the government eases lockdown.

Professor Dominic Harrison is concerned recent statistics suggest the region is not ready for Covid-19 restrictions to be lifted swiftly.

Last week the Blackburn with Darwen director of public health warned figures showing the North-West’s coronavirus reinfection, or R rate, was above one were a ‘red warning light’ against further lifting of the lockdown. As a result he delayed the reopening of primary schools to more pupils.

His worries have been compounded by the government’s publication this week of a ‘heat map’ adding the results of mass testing for Covid-19 in the community to those conducted in hospitals although the region’s R rate has now fallen below one.

It shows most of the North-West, including the Blackburn with Darwen and Lancashire County Council areas, are on ‘red’ for having 510 or more Covid-19 positives per 100,000 tests.

These result follow the publication by technology company ZOE of results from its COVID Symptom Study app showing a North/South divide in the virus’s spread.

The North-West and North-East and Yorkshire regions were recording 1,965 daily new cases and 1,608 per million residents respectively – this highest in England.

Prof Harrison said: “These figures confirm the North-West is at a different stage in the virus’s progression than London where the infection rate has risen and fallen faster.

“They show the need for local decision-making on easing the lockdown restrictions. They confirm my judgement to delay the further opening of primary schools.

“As the first wave of the pandemic starts to subside at national level we will see uneven falls at regional, country and local levels.

“When the numbers get smaller we will see very localised outbreaks which will flare up and hopefully be then shut down by the ‘Test Trace and Isolate’ system.

“We know those areas with highest deprivation and inequalities are likely to end up with higher numbers of cases.”

Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, Lancashire’s public health director, said: “Although there is a declining trend of new cases, we have still got a higher number per 100,000 population. The next few weeks are critical. We need a steady and careful lifting of the lockdown.”