A PUBLIC health director who has been one of the leading voices in the battle against coronavirus has announced his retirement.

Blackburn with Darwen Council’s Professor Dominic Harrison, 62, will leave his post on March 31.

His contribution to the fight against Covid-19 has been praised by politicians of all parties and his counterpart at Lancashire County Council Dr Sakthi Karunanithi.

Salford-born father-of-four sons Prof Harrison, who has written a weekly column for the Lancashire Telegraph since the start of the crisis, said: “It has been challenging but an honour and privilege to lead the borough through the pandemic as it has had the highest cumulative rate of coronavirus cases in the country.

“It has been the highlight of my career in sad way.

“I went into public health because I am passionate about social justice and fairness.

“Improving public health inequalities is the best way to improve people’s life chances and life expectancy, something the pandemic has clearly exposed.

“I would like to thanks the Lancashire Telegraph for giving me the important opportunity to communicate directly to people through my weekly column.”

Prof Harrison’s decision to retire was announced at Thursday’s executive board meeting of Blackburn with Darwen Council by its health boss Cllr Damian Talbot who said: “Dominic has done an amazing job.”

Dr Karunanithi said: “Dominic has had an illustrious career in public health. His focus on supporting vulnerable communities during the pandemic has been second to none. He remains a good friend and guide.”

Cllr Mohammed Khan, Labour leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council, said: “Dom’s going to be a very hard act to follow. Aside from being a highly knowledgeable and well-respected public health expert, he is a fantastic communicator and a wonderful man.”

His Tory group opposite number Cllr John Slater said: “Dominic has been an excellent servant of the borough. He has been a rock and a real leader throughout the Covid pandemic.”

Blackburn MP Kate Hollern said: “Dominic has championed the fight against health inequalities within Blackburn and the country at large. We have been so fortunate to have him serve our community, he will be missed but we wish him a fantastic retirement.”

Darwen East ward Liberal Democrat Cllr Paul Browne said: “I think he has been a first class officer especially during the Covid pandemic. He has kept us in the limelight and done a good job for the borough and its residents.”

Professor Harrison is a reader at his local Roman Catholic Church in Lancaster where he lives with his partner Green Party county councillor Gina Dowding.

He intends to take a year off before doing some long-distance walking including along the recently reopened pilgrimage trail from Canterbury to Rome.

Raised in adoptive family in Darlington, he has a masters degree public health from Liverpool University and is a visiting professor at UCLAN.