EAST Lancashire’s council leaders strongly fear the government’s latest coronavirus lockdown could still be in place over Christmas.

The tough new national restrictions are due for review on December 2 but Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove has admitted they could last longer.

Blackburn with Darwen leader Cllr Mohammed Khan, Hyndburn leader Cllr Miles Parkinson and their Burnley, Pendle and Rossendale counterparts – Cllr Mark Townsend, Cllr Mohammed Iqbal and Cllr Alyson Barnes – all fear that a lockdown festive season is now on the cards.

Cllr Khan said: “This lockdown will have a devastating effect on our local economy but with infection rates still going up the government had to do something.

“It is possibly a couple of weeks too late. I am worried about education remaining open.

“Christmas is going to be very different this year.

"East Lancashire will still be under at least tier one or tier two restrictions along with possibly the whole of the North West.

“We just have to hope rates are going down on December 2.”

Cllr Parkinson said: “This new lockdown is an unwelcome but necessary decision.

“The critical thing will be whether the lockdown ends in December. If it does not it will be disastrous for local retailers.

“We all need to help manage this by keeping social distancing, washing our hands and wearing face coverings. We have to do this together or it could be that Christmas will be changed for people.”

Cllr Iqbal said: “Whilst I understand the reasons for the lockdown and I support it, the government should have have produced a support package to help the hard-pressed residents of Pendle and East Lancashire.

"This lockdown could be too little, too late to save Christmas.”

Cllr Townsend said: “The lockdown is needed but should have happened to coincide with the school half-term. Government has acted too slowly resulting in a longer lockdown than would have been necessary.

“It is going to be a very different Christmas this year.

"We need to start preparing for it now.”

Cllr Barnes said: “It is probably the right decision but I think it should have come two or three weeks ago. I cannot see the lockdown being lifted in time for Christmas but we all have to hope it is.”

Ribble Valley Council leader Cllr Stephen Atkinson said: “It is a sensible and inevitable decision at this time to protect NHS capacity in the North West.

“People are looking forward to this ending before Christmas.”

Lancashire County Council leader Cllr Geoff Driver said: “It is the correct decision because coronavirus infections are in danger of overwhelming the NHS which we cannot allow to happen.

“It was right to try the tiered regional approach first.

“We have just all got to hope for the best and that come December the restrictions are eased and we can all enjoy Christmas.”