Burnley needs stricter restrictions, says council leader

Stricter social contact restrictions must be introduced in Burnley “before it is too late”, the town’s new council leader has said.

Burnley has the highest rate of coronavirus infections in England, with 340 cases per 100,000 people over a seven day period.

Further restrictions on social mixing were announced for other parts of the North on Thursday.

The government said it would take action “where necessary”.

Council leader Mark Townsend said “it doesn’t make any sense” that Burnley was omitted from the latest measures.

The borough is already subject to Lancashire-wide restrictions, banning different households meeting in homes and gardens.

It will be illegal from Saturday to meet indoors anywhere, including pubs and restaurants, in Liverpool, Warrington, Hartlepool and Middlesbrough.

Mr Townsend, who was elected as council leader on Wednesday, said: “We’re already top of the league and we don’t want it to go any worse.”

He said it was “disappointing” restrictions had not been tightened in Burnley.

“It doesn’t make any sense to me at all. I fear it’s going to be too late by the time decisions are taken.”

Mr Townsend said: “Let ‘s be clear, no-one wants a lockdown because it’ll have a devastating impact on the local economy.

“I look at the numbers and I think we have got to do something now.”

NHS Test and Trace had been “disastrous” for the town with results taking an average of seven days to be returned, he added.

In the Commons on Thursday Burnley’s Conservative MP, Antony Higginbotham, called for targeted measures in the area.

Health secretary Matt Hancock responded: “There is a lot of virus spreading in Burnley and we all need to come together to fight that spread.

“We need to make sure the measures are as targeted as possible, have as low a negative impact as possible, but we do need to get the virus under control in Burnley and across the country.”

A spokesperson from the Department of Health and Social Care said it “worked closely” with local leaders to “inform decisions on local interventions”.

Levels of infection were constantly monitored, they said, adding: “We will take swift targeted action where necessary.”

A mobile Covid testing unit, which is appointment only, is returning to Burnley Football Club’s Turf Moor ground on Monday and will be there until Thursday, the council tweeted.

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