STRICT new coronavirus controls across East Lancashire will last for weeks, health bosses have warned.

They apply to Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley, Hyndburn, Pendle and Rossendale as well as Greater Manchester and parts of Yorkshire.

The restrictions on household gatherings and people’s movements were suddenly imposed on Thursday night by Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

At a Lancashire Resilience Forum press conference today, Lancashire’s public health director Dr Sakthi Karunanithi and his Blackburn with Darwen counterpart Professor Dominic Harrison said it would be at least two weeks before the government would have enough information to even consider lifting the new rules.

Forum chairwoman Angie Ridgwell said: “These restrictions are there because we are seeing infection rates across East Lancashire continuing to rise and it’s important for everyone that we get those infection rates down.”

Dr Karunanithi warned “We know it takes at least 10 days, 14 days from catching the infection for it to become really apparent.

“My gut feeling is that this will last at for least a couple of weeks before we start to see the changes in the numbers and the infection rates. The other thing to say is this is very rapidly changing.”

Prof Harrison, who this week extended special measures in the borough, said: “The key message is that we are not locking down East Lancashire but we are locking down the virus within East Lancashire.

“ We are trying to reduce the number of social contacts people have during a period of high and rising rates across a number of local authority areas.

“I agree with Sakthi. The measures will be in place, I suspect, for two weeks and after that we will have a look and see how the confirmed case rates are looking.

“Blackburn with Darwen’s levels of confirmed cases have remained surprisingly stable - our high point was 92 per 100,000 and today we were at 89. We will escalate measures further if we see any further rises."

Blackburn with Darwen Council leader Cllr Mohammed Khan said: “This was a natural follow-on from our decision to keep restrictions in place on Monday with Eid coming up. I think the government made the right decision.”

Cllr Charlie Briggs, leader of Burnley Council, said: “I’d just like to ask everyone to use their common sense, follow the new guidance and continue to maintain good hygiene practices and social distancing."