SPIRALLING coronavirus infection rates across East Lancashire are putting 'very significant pressure' on the Royal Blackburn and Burnley General hospitals, a health boss has warned.

Professor Dominic Harrison expressed his concerns as five of the area's six boroughs recorded increases and were all in the country's 20 worst affected local authorities on Monday.

Figures released by Public Health England put Blackburn with Darwen at the top of the Covid-19 infection league table with Rossendale second.

The former saw its coronavirus rate rise from 515 cases per 100,000 population in the week to October 15 to 755.5 in the seven days to Thursday and the latter from 472.8 to 653.3 over the same period.

The national infection league table saw Ribble Valley in 11th place, Hyndburn in 14th, Pendle in 16th place and Burnley - the only borough of the six to record a drop - in 20th.

Blackburn with Darwen's public health director Professor Dominic Harrison expressed concern at the impact of the rapid rises on hospitals - a worry echoed by his Lancashire County Council counterpart Dr Sakthi Karunanithi.

Prof Harrison said: “It is hard to pinpoint a single cause for our continued rise.

"Blackburn with Darwen was last at this point in August when we introduced local special measures and gradually went down to about 30th.

“Factors driving our current high rates continue to be household transmission and the clustering of cases in hyper-local areas.

“It is important to stress the whole of the borough now has very high rates with much of Darwen over 500 per 100,000. Rossendale is now second highest in England. This is putting very significant pressure on East Lancashire Hospitals Trust.

“I am particularly worried the higher rates are now translating into older age residents very rapidly.”

Dr Karunanithi said: "It will take a couple of weeks before we actually know whether the new restrictions have had an effect.

"The rates are very high at the moment, and we really want to see them reducing. We are continuing to see an increase amongst those aged 60 or over. Our hospitals are very busy at the moment, and we all need to follow the guidance to support them to ensure they continue to cope."