SOME restrictions on businesses and gyms in the eight wards in North-East Blackburn with high levels of coronavirus were eased tonight.

But strict rules on social gatherings by residents were left in force. Additional restrictions on Nelson and Brierfield were also eased for businesses but not for households.

Fears that Rossendale could be put under special measures because of a recent spike in infections proved unfounded although it was made an ‘area of enhanced support’ with additional resources for testing and tracing.

The borough - along with Hyndburn, Burnley, Ribble Valley and nine wards in Darwen and South Blackburn - remained under national guidance on household gatherings.

The eight wards in Blackburn where tighter restrictions on residents socialising will remain are Audley and Queen’s Park, Bastwell and Daisyfield, Billinge and Beardwood, Blackburn Central, Little Harwood and Whitebirk, Roe Lee, Shear Brow and Corporation Park, and Wensley Fold.

Shielding residents in these wards are advised to stay at home until at least September 23 while those in the rest of the borough will be able to go out from September 21.

With the restrictions on some businesses eased in the eight target wards which still have high levels of infections on Tuesday, Blackburn with Darwen Council hopes to be able to reopen Blackburn Sports and Leisure Centre.

Swimming pools, fitness and dance studios, gyms, sports courts and facilities will be able to open then in the restricted areas of Blackburn and Pendle as will indoor play areas (including soft play areas), casinos, skating rinks, bowling alleys, exhibition halls, and conference centres.

But businesses with close contact between staff and customers will no longer be under restrictions, meaning beauty salons will be able to undertake facial treatments in the eight high-risk wards along with Nelson and Brierfield.

Social restrictions remain the same meaning that people cannot socialise with anyone from another household, indoors or outdoors, in the eight high-risk Blackburn wards and the Pendle wards of Bradley, Clover Hill, Walverden, Whitefield, Marsden, Southfield and Brierfield.

Residents in the rest of Pendle remain banned from meeting other households in their homes, gardens or at indoor venues. But they can still go to work and children attend school.

Denise Park, chief executive of Blackburn with Darwen Council, said: “It’s really important that our businesses can safely reopen and we are continuing to advise and enforce safety measures where we need to, making use of all the powers available to us. We are a Covid-safe place.”

Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, director of public health for Lancashire, said: “This further easing of the restrictions is due to the hard work of local people, businesses and local organisations.”

At least 63 new cases of coronavirus have been detected across East Lancashire on Thursday, according to Government figures. Of those, a large spike was recorded in Blackburn with Darwen, with 30 new cases.

Burnley saw its total number of cases rise to 646 after ten people tested positive for the virus.

The third highest number of new cases, eight, was reported in Rossendale.

On Thursday six people in both Pendle and Hyndburn tested positive for Covid-19.One new case was reported in the Ribble Valley.