EAST Lancashire today escaped the toughest level of coronavirus restrictions - for now.

As Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced three tiers of new rules across England, Blackburn with Darwen and the rest of the county was placed in the second level.

While this avoided the closure of pubs and bars imposed on Liverpool and Merseyside, restrictions on household mixing remain higher than in much of the rest of the country placed on 'medium' alert under existing guidance,

The new rules, which come into effect on Wednesday, will be a slight easing of those currently in force in eight wards in North and Central Blackburn and Nelson and Brierfield in Pendle.

But negotiations about the exact level of restrictions in the future were continuing between government and local politicians and could see Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley, Hyndburn, Rossendale, Pendle and - possibly Ribble Valley - moved from tier two - High Alert - to tier three -Very High - before the end of the week.

Since August the eight Blackburn wards, Nelson and Brierfield have been subject to a total ban on household mixing both indoors and outdoors.

Under the new Lancashire-wide tier two the ban on indoor socialising remains but two households can meet in gardens or other outdoor settings provided the observe the 'Rule of Six'.

Residents are also urged to reduce the number of journeys they make and avoid public transport where possible.

Blackburn Labour MP Kate Hollern said:"We are in tier two today but we could be in tier three tomorrow. After the Prime Minister's announcement people are even more confused than they were before."

Rossendale and Darwen Conservative MP Jake Berry said: "It is good news that East Lancashire is in tier two but we were on the cusp of going into tier three.If people do not observe the rules of tier two then we will be going into the higher level. We are very close to the edge."

Hyndburn Tory MP Sara Britcliffe said: "I am pleased we are in tier two. I think there will have been a sigh of relieve from owners of pubs and bars and their customers. However people must obey the new rules to reduce transmission of Covid-19 or we will be moved in to tier three."

Blackburn with Darwen Council leader Cllr Mohammed Khan said: "At the present moment the borough and the rest of Lancashire are in tier two which means a slight easing of restrictions on households meeting outdoors in the wards under the tightest restrictions.

"There will be a meeting of Lancashire council leaders tomorrow morning before further discussions with government advisers later as a result of which Pennine Lancashire could be moved into tier three.

"The current restrictions which have been in place since August have not been working as the coronavirus infection rate has continue to go up. We are concerned that Lancashire should be treated all together and that the level of support offered to business such as pubs and bars if more restrictions in tier three are not sufficient.

"If these issues can be resolved, I would be happy to see Lancashire moved into tier three."

Cllr Mohammed Iqbal, leader of Pendle Council, said: "We have been placed in tier two which eased the restrictions in Nelson and Brierfield.

"But we are still in talks with the government which will continue in the morning which could see us moved into tier three.We want the county treated uniformly and are unhappy with the support on offer to businesses."