Preston is facing a fresh lockdown within days after local coronavirus infections surged, a public health official has said.
Cases of the disease in the Lancashire city have doubled in a week, and Preston could follow in the footsteps of nearby east Lancashire, Greater Manchester and parts of West Yorkshire by reintroducing stringent lockdown rules.
Lancashire county council’s director of public health, Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, expects stricter rules to be imposed in the city in the next few days, with residents already being asked to follow a number of extra measures to halt the spread of the virus.
Data from Public Health England show that the city recorded 49 new cases of Covid-19 in the week to 31 July, equating to almost 35 cases per 100,000 population, with 18 cases recorded in one day alone.
It was the second biggest increase in cases behind Blackburn with Darwen, which recorded 119 new cases.
Karunanithi told BBC Radio Lancashire he expected the government to impose restrictions “in the next few days”. “That is my personal and professional opinion, given the statistics, the direction of travel and given the size of the issue,” he said.
Further updates on possible measures are expected on Thursday after a government meeting to discuss local authorities, Karunanithi said. “We will get to know after that meeting if there are any restrictions that will be brought in or [if] any support will be given to us as well.”
Preston was not included in the official measures enforced by central government, but residents have been advised to take extra precautions. Last Friday the city council called on locals to avoid having visitors from another household in their homes and to wear face coverings in all indoor public places.
A nightclub in Preston was criticised for reopening on Saturday night – the first to reopen in Britain during the crisis. Switch Nightclub had tickets priced up to £180 and said it was operating only as a bar, but footage showed people apparently dancing and singing together.
Terry Woods, the deputy chief constable of Lancashire police, said that to “open a venue of 500 young people with drink is just not helpful at all”. The council said it was aware of videos on social media and pledged to investigate.
Switch’s owners said they had always planned to get the club back open but as a bar rather than a nightclub. “It is, and has always been, our intention to reopen and repurpose Switch to deliver a safe and enjoyable experience … even if it’s as a bar,” they said.