The senior police officer leading Lancashire’s response to the coronavirus crisis has urged residents to stay the course on social distancing to help the county avoid more suffering – and the prospect of a local lockdown.

Deputy Chief Constable Terry Woods has joined the county’s public health boss to issue a call for caution after new figures showed that Lancashire had one of the worst infection rates in the country.

Data released by Public Health England (PHE) for the final week in May revealed that the Lancashire County Council and Blackpool Council areas were two out of just over a dozen nationwide where testing had uncovered more than 26 Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people during that seven-day period.

There is good news – along with the rest of the country, the number of new cases identified each day in the county council patch has been showing a general downward trend.

But DCC Woods and Lancashire County Council’s director of public health, Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, say that the position of Lancashire in the context of the rest of the country is a cause for concern.

With further lockdown-lifting due next week, as non-essential retailers are allowed to reopen, the pair have made a plea to residents not to forget that they are still in the middle of a pandemic – and one which persists in the North West more than in most other parts of England.

“People need to be mindful that, regardless of what they see on national TV, the picture isn’t quite like that for us – it should be in the next few weeks, one hopes, but at the minute, there is a higher risk in Lancashire,” warned DCC Woods, who acts as Gold Command for the Lancashire Resilience Forum.

“I’m advising my own family to be really careful outside – and if they don’t need to make a journey, then don’t.   Just treat it as being pretty hazardous outdoors.”

DCC Woods stopped short of advising  Lancashire residents to take stricter measures than advised by the government, but said he was worried that people were going beyond what is currently permitted – and suggested that the consequences could ultimately be felt across the county.

“I’m seeing people not adhering to the straightforward guidance – people who are from different households sitting down in groups, having physical contact with each other, touching their faces and clearly not washing their hands.”

Stressing that he had no information about the likelihood of local lockdowns in the county, he added:  “You can see from the data that if we can’t further control and reduce the outbreak in Lancashire, then if the government considers local lockdowns, areas like ours would be susceptible to fitting the criteria.

“But we have still got the opportunity to bring that virus level down by sticking to the straightforward guidance.”

Dr Karunanithi echoed that appeal, saying that “the onus is on us” to avoid a second spike in coronavirus infections.

“My key message to people is:  don’t be a contact [for the spread of coronavirus].

“Everybody can play their part by following social distancing, hand-washing, staying at home as much as possible and working from home if you can – as well as not meeting in groups of more than six people outdoors.

“We could have been much worse off if it weren’t for the people of Lancashire following the advice given so far.   There is no magic miracle that has happened – it’s been down to their perseverance, patience and discipline,” Dr. Karunanithi explained.

Earlier this week, he advised schools that they should still not reopen more widely, but he will not be issuing similar guidance to the county’s retailers as they prepare to welcome customers back – instead appealing to traders and customers to act responsibly.

“This is not a trade-off between health and the economy – they go hand in hand.

"We must avoid seeing the health crisis as stopping us from growing the economy – secure our health and we can secure our economy.”