THREE East Lancashire boroughs are to get extra government support as a result of research into areas of enduring coronavirus transmission with Blackburn with Darwen Council.

It will include cash, extra Covid-19 testing and help with vaccination.

The first wave of support will be offered to Blackburn with Darwen, Bolton, Luton and Leicester later this month.

Hyndburn and Burnley are among 16 more local authorities to get the boost next month.

The winter package is expected to run until the end of March.

Department of Health and Social care experts are now working on the ‘package of tailored support for areas of enduring transmission for coronavirus’.

News of the scheme has been welcomed by Professor Dominic Harrison, Blackburn with Darwen’s public health director, and Hyndburn Council leader Cllr Miles Parkinson.

The research in December and January with the government’s Joint Bio-Security Centre also involved Bolton, Luton and Leicester which also had persistently high levels of Covid-19 infection early in the pandemic.

The package includes additional testing capacity and targeted testing; support to maintain public health staffing; support for workplaces and businesses to be Covid-secure; and vaccine programme support; and cash to tackle long-term health inequalities.

Prof Harrison said: “We were aware of national discussions on this programme but are currently awaiting further detail on the support available to us as a proposed area of ‘enduring transmission’.

“Blackburn with Darwen was involved in research in December and January about our high and persistent levels of coronavirus infection early in the pandemic.

“The reasons include high levels of deprivation, multi-generational large households in small houses, high levels of people in front-line work and high numbers of ethnic minority residents.

“This extra support package will be welcome.

“We have already begun to develop our plans for the types of support we would welcome, based on our learning throughout the pandemic. These include measures to reduce Covid transmission across all our communities, and also to improve the longer-term health of our residents.

“These include support for more testing in the community looking for people who have the virus without symptoms rather than just those who test because they have them.

“We are also asking for additional vaccination capacity especially for our 12 to 15-year-olds. We would like drop-in centres for vaccination for this age group as in Scotland rather than just jabs offered in schools.

“The borough will also need extra financial support for those who have to self-isolate because of coronavirus.

“We will need this extra help until the end of March to help Blackburn with Darwen get through a potentially difficult autumn and winter.”

Cllr Parkinson said: “This funding support package is welcome. Winter is expected to bring further challenges. Hyndburn has many vulnerable and hard-to-reach residents, so any assistance in supporting them is gratefully received. This package will be put to good use.”

Blackburn MP Kate Hollern said: “It will be a difficult winter for local health services so the government shouldn’t drag their feet in delivering this much needed support to ensure that services aren’t overwhelmed."

She added: “Within the larger context of national health disparities and local government spending this is a drop in the ocean compared to what needs to be done.

“ Covid-19 restrictions impacted Blackburn with Darwen more than virtually anywhere else in the country – and for longer. We need support to help our businesses to recover.”

A Burnley Council spokesman said: “We await further details. We will continue to work to minimise disruption to businesses, education and to our daily lives. Vaccination remains our best defence, so we encourage all eligible residents to come forward for their jab.”

A spokesman for Lancashire County Council said: “We are not aware of this list, however will work with the national team in keeping our communities safe and well during the coming months.”