Gyms and swimming pools won’t reopen in Luton or Blackburn tomorrow due to a recent spike in coronavirus cases.
Sports facilities across the country are set to open their doors tomorrow for the first time since lockdown began in March.
But Blackburn with Darwen and Luton local authorities have now agreed to delay the reopening to help stop the spread of the deadly virus in those areas.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Blackburn with Darwen and Luton councils are doing excellent work with their local communities to address an increase in coronavirus cases and we continue to work collectively with them.
“The latest data shows the incidence of Covid-19 in these areas is higher than in other areas of the country, and we have today agreed to support both local authorities to pause the further easement of lockdown measures in these areas.
“This means indoor gyms, swimming pools and other sport and exercise facilities will not reopen in Luton or Blackburn with Darwen on 25 July.
“I appreciate this will be disappointing for many people and some businesses in the area but we are in complete agreement with local leaders that the priority must be to protect local residents by stopping the spread of this virus.
“I have every faith in the local leaders’ ability to help their areas return to normal as soon as possible and in local communities coming together during this time.”
Hazel Simmons, Leader of the Council, said: “Our main priority is to protect Luton and these measures only serve to underline the importance of doing just that. Please pass these important messages on to your family and friends and if you can, stay at home.
“Fighting coronavirus is everyone’s responsibility. Too many families and friends have lost loved ones and we must do everything we can to ensure more lives aren’t wasted unnecessarily.
“There has been too much heartache in the town for us to risk further anguish, pain and suffering.”
Yesterday, Public Health England announced that two UK towns are now ‘areas of intervention’ over coronavirus levels.
The announcement came as the health authority declare that cases in Luton, in Bedfordshire, and Blackburn and Darwen, in Lancashire, have increased.
They are now both at the same level as Leicester and the city’s neighbouring Oadby and Wigston, which were subject to the UK’s first full local lockdown.
In Blackburn with Darwen, the rate has jumped from 48.3 cases per 100,000 people in the seven days to July 12 to 79.9 in the seven days to July 19, with 119 new cases recorded.
The leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council said yesterday it is “sensible not to relax” lockdown restrictions, as the rate of Covid-19 cases in the borough shot up.
Councillor Mohammed Khan urged the community to “keep up the momentum” in combating the disease as 122 new cases were recorded in the seven days to July 20.
“We are very grateful to our communities for working with us,” said Mr Khan.
“The increase in testing is helping to ensure that we are heading in the right direction with a reduction in positive cases and hospital admissions.
“We need to keep up the momentum with our strong prevention work so we agree it’s sensible not to relax the easing of restrictions at the moment to stop the spread.
Mr Khan added that the decision to delay the reopening of council leisure facilities would run alongside new “localised prevention measures”.
“We feel that accelerating our control measures in this way will assist us to move out of having higher Covid rates even faster – we are grateful for the Government’s help in our local plans on this,” he said.