TOUGH new nationwide coronavirus restrictions will see a clampdown on gatherings across much of East Lancashire.

From Monday social meetings of more than six people indoors or outdoors will be illegal following a steep rise in infections. The law change will not apply to schools, workplaces or Covid-secure weddings, funerals, places of worship and organised team sports.

The move represents a significant toughening of the rules for residents of Hyndburn, Burnley, Ribble Valley, Rossendale, Darwen and parts of Blackburn.

Eight wards in central and north Blackburn remain under the same strict special measures introduced on August 23 which banned residents from meeting with people outside their own household in any circumstances.

The biggest changes will be in Rossendale, Hyndburn, Burnley and the rest of Blackburn with Darwen, which have all been removed from extra restrictions in recent weeks to follow national guidelines, which yesterday’s announcement by the Prime Minister significantly toughened with a simpler ‘Rule of Six’.

He pledged the new regulations would be enforced vigorously by the police with a £100 fine, doubling on each offence up to £3,200, and powers to disperse and arrest those who ignore them.

There will be a new legal duty on pubs and restaurants to take and keep identity details of all customers for test and trace purposes.

Councils will be given stronger powers to close hospitality venues flouting the rules and will be given money to employ marshals to enforce social distancing in their areas.

Current national rules allow up to 30 people from two households, or six from multiple households, to meet outdoors, but says people should only socialise indoors with members of up to two households.

Hyndburn MP Sara Britcliffe said: “These changes are being made to curb the spread of the virus. It is important that we follow these rules and protect those that we love from this vicious disease.”

Cllr Mohammed Khan, leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council, said: “We will need to look at what this will mean for Blackburn with Darwen and how it will work alongside the current restrictions and guidelines."

Blackburn MP Kate Hollern said: “All of these announcements give the impression that the government has simply not got a grip. I fail to understand why the government has once again insisted on making the new rules enforceable almost a week after the announcement..”

Pendle council leader Cllr Mohammed Iqbal said: “What we need now is the government to stop changing the rules and start enforcing them. The constant changes are confusing people.”

Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans said: “Anyone who thinks this pandemic is over should think seriously about what is happening in other countries."

Burnley MP Antony Higginbotham said: “This latest announcement clarifies one of the things that I know some have found confusing about how many people can meet up, simplifying this to no more than six people anywhere."