BUSY high streets in Blackburn and Burnley have pushed the towns into the top 10 list of fastest-recovering areas following the peak of the coronavirus outbreak.

According to new data from the Centre for Cities, the number of people in Blackburn’s town centre - known as footfall - has recovered to 69 per cent of what it was before lockdown.

The biggest recovery so far has been at night and over the weekends, the numbers reveal, as pubs and restaurants make a comeback.

But the figures come as people are being urged to play their part in a bid to avoid a ‘local lockdown’ like in Leicester.

There are concerns that parts of Lancashire could be heading for a second wave of the virus, after a spike in the number of cases in Pendle last week and new data that shows Blackburn with Darwen has one of the highest infection rates in the country.

Numbers from Public Health England, released on Friday, show the area has the fourth highest infection rate in the county - now 33.6 per 100,000 people - behind Leicester, Bradford and Rochdale.

Blackburn with Darwen Council say it is vital everyone in the borough continues to adhere to social distancing guidelines and maintains good hygiene when outside of their homes. It is also advised people wear face coverings in all enclosed public spaces. People with symptoms of coronavirus should stay at home.

Measures at The Mall Blackburn have included escalating the intensity and frequency of cleaning procedures, providing instructional signage and encouraging all visitors and staff to practice good hygiene with regular hand washing.

Traders have reported a jump in the number of customers returning to the shopping centre.

Loraine Jones, general manager, said: “It is wonderful to see our shoppers back here in The Mall. We have seen a steady increase in numbers since Monday 15 June as more retailers open their doors.

“The measures we have put in place have been well received and our staff have been amazing. The signs are very positive and I would like to thank everyone for their support and patience as we all adapt to the new normal.”

Non-essential shops and retailers were allowed to reopen on June 15, which saw queues stretching round corners and town centres returning to the ‘new normal’ - with social distancing measures in place.

READ > These two Lancashire areas have jumped up in coronavirus infection rates

A spokesman for Blackburn Business Improvement District (BID) said: “It’s incredible news that Blackburn is in the top 10 of high streets recovering from Covid-19. Thank you for helping us remain safe and healthy whilst you shop in our stores and cafes. The data also shows that there’s been an increase in visitors and workers from the local area, compared to before lockdown, which is to be expected.”

In Burnley, figures show that footfall at the end of June had returned to 90 per cent of what it was before the outbreak hit.

A spokesman for the town’s Charter Walk shopping centre said the number of shoppers last month has “exceeded expectations” and their retailers are “delighted” with the results.

The number of workers in the town centre, however, is yet to reach similar levels as many high street businesses remain closed.

Last Thursday, the Government announced the reopening of buildings that are more high-risk with close contact, such as beauty salons and indoor gyms.

The recovery as a whole in East Lancashire could be easier than in other parts of the country due to strong industry, the East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce claimed this week.

It believes the east of the county’s factories and manufacturers could be behind a successful recovery, hinting as major investment opportunities for towns.

Miranda Barker, the Chamber’s president, said: “All the way from the beginning of the virus, most other chambers were seeing really big drop in the amount of trade, something like 50 per cent drops - it’s actually really staggering.

“However, Lancashire has managed to keep very much close to its normal level all the way through.

“The manufacturers, by and large, have managed to keep going in one way, shape or form.

“A lot of them are on split shifts and reduced manpower but have carried on going.

“Also because of the manufacturing strength, and the specialist advanced manufacturing clusters, we’re still seeing interest in investments.

“Exporting has been better maintained in Lancashire than anywhere else and it makes sense to say that a significant factor in those areas doing well is manufacturing.”

Last week, chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a string of new funding packages for business at an emergency post-coronavirus budget.

Measures include a a £1,000 bonus for every employee brought back from furlough, £1,000 for each new trainee and a new discount scheme to encourage locals to ‘eat out to help out’.