CHRISTMAS mixing is being discouraged as evidence shows the new variant of Covid-19 could now be in Lancashire.

Lancashire County Council director of public health Dr Sakthi Karunanithi said that there was no scientific evidence that supports households mixing around the festive period and he is now urging residents to avoid mixing if at all possible as cases start to rise again in Lancashire.

He said: “It is disappointing that we are seeing a surge in the number of cases.

“My appeal to our residents is that just because we can doesn’t mean that we should (mix at Christmas).

“If we can all stick to that and avoid mixing wherever possible with other households then we will come out of 2020 and into the new year in a far better position regarding the virus.

“I would encourage everyone to think twice before making the decisions and if at all possible, please avoid mixing with other households.”

Lancashire is currently under tier 3 restrictions but with numbers continuing to rise, county leaders have said that the end of 2020 will decide how the new year will begin.

Leader have said, however, that at the moment, there is ‘no rationale’ for the county to be put into tier 4 restrictions.

Dr Karunanithi added: “There is no hiding of the fact that the cases are increasing across Lancashire but we are also aware that it is being contributed to by local outbreaks.

“At this point in time, we do not believe there is a rationale for putting Lancashire into tier 4 restrictions.

“However we are also aware that there is a realistic opportunity that the cases are going to further increase.

“What we are trying to do here is at best avoid it, at least delay if for as long as we can.”

Cases in Blackburn with Darwen have slightly increased, with the rate of infection last Thursday (December 17) at 257.9 cases per 100,000 people while in the week before on December 10, the rate of infection stood at 243.2.

Leader of the Lancashire Resilience Forum and CEO of Lancashire County Council Angie Ridgewell said: “This is a really difficult end to what has been a really difficult year and the new variant of the virus has struck us at the worst possible time.

“Although we haven’t had it confirmed yet, we do believe the new variant is here in Lancashire.

“People are hugely disappointed the Christmas bubble has been cancelled but this is really important for everyone’s safety.

“We are at a really critical part in the pandemic and everyone has a part to play.”

The sharper increases, where it is believed the new variant of the virus could be spreading, are in Burnley and Hyndburn after infection rates have increased by more than 100 in the week up to December 17.

Dr Karunanithi said: “A proxy measure is thought to be places where there is a recent sudden surge in the number of cases and as you will see in the figures in many of the districts, that is the case, particularly in the East but not necessarily limited to the Eastern districts.

“That is what makes us believe that there is a high likelihood the new variant is here.”