AN East Lancashire business boss has branded any delay in lifting the last set of lockdown restrictions by four weeks 'incredibly disappointing'.

Miranda Barker's dismay at the announcement by Prime Minister Boris Johnson expected later today was echoed by Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans and Pendle Council leader Cllr Mohammed Iqbal.

Blackburn with Darwen Council's public health director Professor Dominic Harrison, Blackburn MP Kate Hollern and Hyndburn Council leader Cllr Miles Parkinson welcomed the move.

Mr Johnson is understood to be announcing this evening that the ending of social-distancing rules – scheduled for June 21 – will be delayed for four weeks after warnings from scientists the rapid spread of the Delta variant of coronavirus first identified in India will cause a 'substantial' third wave if allowed to spread unchecked.

Ms Barker, chief executive of the East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce said: "Whilst I think it's not surprising, we are obviously incredibly disappointed to hear of delays to lockdown being lifted. The key factor is that there is the appropriate substantial business support - we would want government to ensure it is not stepped down."

Mr Evans said: "I am deeply disappointed at any delays to lockdown lifting. Whilst cases are rising in East Lancashire, the hospitalisations and death are fortunately not spiking anywhere near the original waves."

Cllr Iqbal said: "This is yet another example of the government messing people about. The impact on businesses across Pendle will be devastating."

Prof Harrison, said: “I welcome the opportunity to retain the current restrictions of Step Three.

“In four weeks time we hope to have a much higher proportion of our Pennine Lancashire population second dose protected.

“This will give us much more resilience. We are likely to see many other areas across the UK with high and rising rates similar to Lancashire.This will make the decision on lifting the final lockdown step even more difficult ”

Mrs Hollern said: "We all want to see the end of restrictions but I can see the logic in allowing these weeks to get as many more people vaccinated as possible. What does concern me is the huge loss of income many businesses will be facing. The government must ensure these businesses are supported."

Cllr Parkinson said: "We have to be cautious as the most important thing is to get everyone vaccinated and safe from Covid-19. This how we will suppress it and get the economy fully open in the future."

Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, Director of Public Health for Lancashire County Council, said:

"While the delay to the final lifting of restrictions will come as a disappointment to many, it is the sensible approach given the rapid rise in cases that is being felt across the country.

"Lancashire is at the heart of this, with large numbers of infections in East and Central parts of the county, which is being driven by the Delta variant that was first discovered in India.

"Cases are also rising fast in other parts of the county.

"We are seeing a rise in hospital admissions, particularly in younger residents, although it is still too early to know the full impact of this wave."