EAST Lancashire residents have been advised to exercise 'extra caution' about mixing with people outside their household to avoid spreading coronavirus.

Blackburn with Darwen Council chief executive Denise Park issued the warning after the government announced a strengthened package of support for the county to combat a rise in the Delta variant of Covid-19 first identified in India.

Ms Park, who chairs the Lancashire Resilience Forum, said residents need to take care to avoid new restrictions coming in.

The support package includes additional testing capacity, a ramping-up of the vaccination programme, support from the military, door-to-door visits, supervised in-school testing, enhanced contact tracing and jabs for all over-25s.

It extends measures already in place in Blackburn with Darwen and Burnley to the rest of Lancashire including Hyndburn, Ribble Valley, Pendle and Rossendale.

Ms Park has underlined Health Secretary Matt Hancock's guidance to residents to meet people outdoors rather than inside and 'minimise travel'.

She said at an LRF press conference: “In terms of hospitality, the guidance is to meet outdoors where possible. It's safer to meet outdoors or in well-ventilated areas. 

"So, if you can, meet outdoors – if you can’t, make sure that you’re wearing masks when you’re moving around, that you’re sanitising and following the basic guidance. It’s not about saying ‘don’t do it’, it’s about doing it safely – and the safest way is outdoors.

“That’s the same with travel – it’s not saying don’t travel, it’s saying consider your travel arrangements. If you’re travelling by car with other people, is it well-ventilated?   If you’re on public transport, are you wearing a mask?

“It’s not a travel ban. This is about additional support and additional guidance to take extra caution. We didn’t want to see measures that would bring in additional restrictions. 

"We understand we have to learn to live with this virus and manage the variants and therefore it is about measures that support our residents – and the key is to ensure maximum take-up of the vaccine."

The vaccine message was reinforced by Lancashire County Council's public health director, Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, who said: "There has never been a situation where we have run out of vaccines, so our key push now is to ask everybody who is over 18 in Lancashire, just check into that website and turn up – we will help you find out whether you are eligible or not.

“We will continue to advocate for Lancashire..to be given a headstart when the next stage comes, when the vaccine eligibility drops to the younger age group."