By Dominic Harrison, director of public health Blackburn with Darwen Council

The government’s decision to call Lockdown three is fully justified. The third wave of the pandemic is now clearly visible across all Lancashire local authorities.

Rates across the county are rising more rapidly than the two previous waves. From what we can see, this third wave will probably exceed both the confirmed case rates and hospitalisations in each of wave one and two - whose peaks were around April 23 and November 14 2020 respectively.

Positivity rates (the number of confirmed cases as a percentage of all tests taken) are rising even faster. In some areas positivity is at the highest it has been for the whole of the pandemic; the Blackburn with Darwen rate is at 22 per cent, Burnley at 25 per cent.

These two local authority areas now have the second and third highest cumulative Covid case rates in the UK (behind Merthyr Tydfil in Wales).

For Pennine Lancashire, up to December 31, the collective seven-day case rate rise is also higher than it has ever been in a single week: Blackburn with Darwen 43 per cent, Rossendale 35 per cent, Burnley 34 per cent,Hyndburn 55 per cent, Ribble Valley 13 per cent,and Pendle 12 per cent.

As a result of these rapid rises, East Lancashire Hospitals Trust has seen a 57 per cent increase in hospital Covid cases since Christmas Day.

This situation is not good and is going to get worse before it gets better.

Lancashire has not yet seen the full effects of the new variant spread This is present in the county but has not yet spread as widely here as elsewhere. Carlisle in Cumbria, where the new variant was confirmed as present before Christmas is now seeing cases near 1,000 per 100,000. It may be just a matter of weeks before many Lancashire local authorities have similar rates.

Patterns of spread by place and ethnicity also seem to be changing with areas of higher South Asian heritage communities in Lancashire slightly less targeted by the virus so far in this wave.

South Blackburn and Darwen wards now have higher and more rapidly rising rates and Ribble Valley, Wyre, Lancaster and West Lancashire local authority areas are seeing some of the fastest rising rates across the county. Ribble Valley was at 423.7 per 100,000 on December 31 catching up rapidly with Pendle at 487.5 and Blackburn with Darwen at 511.

‘White British’ Pennine Lancashire residents in their 60s, 70’s and 80’s are the dominant ‘Covid-hospitalised’ group. This group has the lowest ‘natural immunity’ – as it has had the lowest case rate of Covid by age and ethnicity during the pandemic. This is probably a result of older age residents being more likely to ‘stay at home’ or ‘shield’.

So, wherever we live, whatever our ethnicity, gender or age, none of us should feel we are outside of the risks the whole community is now facing.

January and February 2021 are going to be the hardest months of the whole pandemic and we are all going to need to stick to the Lockdown rules to save lives.

We need to continue to support and look after each other- in our families, neighbourhoods and communities. Lockdown in these winter months will be tough.

We are going to have to summon all of our good humour, common sense and kindness to help each other get through it.