A PUBLIC health director has spelled out his concerns about the effectiveness of national coronavirus test and trace systems to senior councillors.

Professor Dominic Harrison tells members of Blackburn with Darwen Council's executive board why he speeded up bringing in the borough's own scheme.

His report, to be debated on Thursday, follows the government on Friday extending tight coronavirus restrictions on the borough, Hyndburn, Burnley, Pendle and Rossendale.

It outlines the local Covid-19 Local Outbreak Management Plan, financed by a £1.36 million government grant.

In it Prof Harrison says ' for more complex situations, the knowledge and relationships which local partners have will be invaluable'.

It warns: "A key risk identified in mid-July, through local analysis by the Blackburn with Darwen public health team, is that the national system appeared to be completing contact tracing for less than half of confirmed cases in a number of local authority areas, including Blackburn with Darwen.

"From the July 20 we have been working with Public Health England and the Department of Health and Social Care nationally and regionally to address this issue locally."

The plan outlines how the council will set up Outbreak Management Hubs in the case of serious coronavirus clusters and is ready to take legal action against businesses that fail to make their workplaces Covid-19 safe.

It highlights work to prepare schools for the full return of pupils next month, to protect the black and ethnic minority community, and support homeless people.

Prof Harrison's report says: "We have developed specific management plans to respond to outbreaks in higher-risk settings.

"These include high risk workplaces/occupations including leisure and entertainment; care homes; other residential settings including mental health and learning disability; domiciliary care; schools; early years; faith settings; madrassahs; homeless; and asylum seeker/refugee communities

"All settings are being asked to consider the additional risks posed to BAME staff and put appropriate mitigation measures in place.

" People facing the greatest deprivation experience a higher rate of exposure to Covid-19 and existing poor health may put them at risk of more severe outcomes.

"The public protection team are responsible for working with businesses to promote Covid-secure practices.

"A programme of inspections is being conducted, targeting high risk workplaces and responding to complaints.

"Enforcement action will be escalated where informal approaches do not bring about the required level of compliance."

Prof Harrison's report says: "We believe that case finding is an important element of outbreak management.

"We propose to develop the testing of asymptomatic individuals in high risk settings and communities, based on local knowledge and intelligence.

"Therefore there is a need to create contact tracing surge capacity at local level.

"An outbreak can be declared over 28 days after the last case of Covid-19 infection."

Prof Harrison adds: "We are currently working in a fast-changing, complex environment. The plan itself is not set in stone and will evolve."