THE number of coronavirus cases among residents aged 65 and over in Blackburn with Darwen tripled last month sparking fears they may be locked down in their homes.

The borough's public health director Professor Dominic Harrison said he understood the same sharp rise in older residents was mirrored in other East Lancashire areas.

He warned that if the rise was not halted residents aged 65 and over may have to return to 'shielding' and remain permanently in their homes.

His fears were echoed by Cllr Mohammed Iqbal, leader of Pendle Council where Nelson and Brierfield have been under tight Covid-19 restrictions with parts of North and Central Blackburn since August.

The new figures on coronavirus rates in Blackburn with Darwen showed that on October 1 there were 138 confirmed cases of coronavirus per 100,000 residents aged 65 and over but that by Friday October 23 that had risen to 455.

Prof Harrison said the position was even worse for older members of the South Asian heritage community.

He said: "It is a matter of great concern that the number of cases among those aged 65 and over in the borough has tripled in three weeks.

"They are the most vulnerable to being seriously ill. People under 40 are less likely to have severe symptoms.

"Unfortunately those 65 and over are much more likely to be hospitalised and sadly some will die.

"I expect these figures for older people contracting Covid-19 to be mirrored across East Lancashire.

"If the rise continues, I fear we may have to return to some form of 'shielding' for the over-65s and ask them to stay permanently in their homes.

"We are not at that stage yet but older residents need to be particularly careful to stop that happening.

"We are starting to see high infection rates in younger people feeding through into older residents.

"The figures for over-65 cases in the South Asian community are three times those in the rest of the borough population because of older people living in multi-generational households with their families."

Cllr Iqbal said: "I am very concerned at these figures for infections in the 65 and over age group. I expect they are mirrored in Pendle and the rest of East Lancashire

"I am fearful that older residents, who are already suffering from social isolation, may be locked down in their homes again unless something drastic is done."