RESTRICTIONS on easing the coronavirus lockdown in Blackburn with Darwen will last for another two weeks but no new controls are expected on Monday.

Council leader Cllr Mohammed Khan laid out his expectations for the future of special measures in the borough after Health Secretary Matt Hancock declared it and Luton as ‘areas of intervention’ on Thursday night.

The Cabinet minister immediately laid out regulations to postpone the reopening of Blackburn and Darwen’s privately-owned indoor gyms and other indoor sporting centres due today and casinos, bowling alleys, skating rinks and conference venues due from August 1.

On July 13 borough public health director professor Dominic Harrison introduced new guidelines after a spike in Covid-19 infections.

They included limiting the numbers meeting from different households; wearing face coverings in all enclosed public spaces such as shops and workplaces; and not hugging or shaking hands outside the immediate household.

Cllr Khan said the rate of positive tests for Covid-19 had fallen this week with 450 a day being conducted at two centres in car parks at Witton Park Academy and the Royal Blackburn Hospital.

He told the Lancashire Telegraph yesterday: “The percentage of positive tests is falling. A week ago it was seven, on Tuesday 2.9, on Wednesday 2.6 and on Thursday 2.4.

“I do not expect to see our local special measures or those imposed by Mr Hancock lifted for another couple of weeks but I do not expect the council to impose further restrictions on top when we review the situation on Monday.

“This is about avoiding the imposition of a full second lockdown as in Leicester. We are moving in the right direction at the moment.”

Mr Hancock acted suddenly on Thursday evening after analysis of the latest Covid-19 infection figures from Public Health England’s weekly surveillance report showed that Blackburn with Darwen was at the top of the national coronavirus league table with 81.9 new cases per 100,000 population in the week up to July 20.

Leicester came second with Hyndburn fifth (44.5 cases per 100,000 ) and Pendle, declared an area for enhanced support, eighth (27.4 cases per 100,000).

In a video meeting with Mr Hancock, Cllr Khan asked him to extend the council’s own postponement of the reopening of its leisure centres to private sector gyms, pools and sports and fitness centres.

The new status means that Blackburn with Darwen will benefit from more government support, testing and resources under a special local ‘action plan’.

Mr Hancock said: “Blackburn with Darwen and Luton councils are doing excellent work to address an increase in coronavirus cases.

“Strong community engagement, major boosts in testing and increased support are already underway.

“The latest data shows the incidence of COVID-19 in these areas is higher than in other areas of the country, and we have agreed to support both local authorities to pause the further easement of lockdown measures in these areas “I appreciate this will be disappointing for many people and some businesses in the area but we are in complete agreement with local leaders the priority must be to protect local residents by stopping the spread of this virus.”

He said he would would keep the new government regulations under review and will make changes as necessary.

Hyndburn MP Sara Britcliffe said: “We are next door to Blackburn with Darwen who are managing a spike currently and by following the safety rules we can all help reduce the spread.”