THE government this afternoon added Preston to the list of Lancashire authorities subject to tight coronavirus restrictions because of rocketing infection rates.

The existing rules remained in place in Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley, Hyndburn, Pendle and Rossendale as well as the whole of Greater Manchester and parts of Yorkshire.

These restrictions on household gatherings and people’s movements were suddenly imposed on last week by Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

Today Mr Hancock announced they would stay in place across East Lancashire but added the Preston to the list after days or raising Covid-19 in the city.

This means, from midnight tonight if you are a Preston resident, as in the five East Lancashire boroughs, you cannot have others in your homes and gardens, you cannot visit other people's homes or gardens, even if they are in an unaffected area, and you are not permitted to mix with other household in indoor venues

Social bubbles are exempt from these restrictions.

Residents can meet in groups of up to six (or more than six if exclusively from two households) in outdoor areas such as parks and beer gardens. Households can also visit indoor hospitality venues, so long as they don't mix with others.

This follows Preston being designated an "area of intervention" by government following a spike in cases.

Mr Hancock confirmed that wider local restrictions in Leicester, Blackburn and Bradford would continue.

He said the latest data was not showing any evidence of a decrease in the number of cases per 100,000 people in the East Lancashire area.

Mr Hancock said: “The past week has been difficult for many people in Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire and East Lancashire, and I thank everyone in these areas for their patience and willingness to follow the rules.

“Yesterday I chaired a meeting of the Local Action Gold Committee, and unfortunately, the data does not yet show a decrease in the transmission of this terrible virus. It means we must keep the current restrictions in place to allow more time for the impact of this ban on indoor gatherings to be felt, and make sure local residents and their loved ones are protected. At the request of the local area we are also extending these restrictions to Preston.

“We are constantly examining the data on the prevalence of the virus in these areas, and we will review the measures again next week.

“As we continue to see rising rates of the virus across Europe, it is vital we take every precaution to protect our country. I urge everyone in these areas to follow the rules, get yourself a free test as soon as you get any symptoms, and isolate if NHS Test and Trace tells you to.”

Dr Sakthi Karunanithi Lancashire County Council 's public health director said: "

His Lancashire County Council counterpart Dr Sakthi Karunanithi said: "In the past week, the number of positive cases in Preston has increased significantly and it is extremely important that we act now to prevent the situation from getting any worse.

"The evidence is clear, we all need to take extra precautions to protect our loved ones. Coronavirus affects all of communities and we all need to do our part to prevent the spread from continuing rise. I also want to be clear that this is affecting people from both south Asian and white ethnic backgrounds, particularly those living in poor socio economic conditions in our city. We need to avoid mixing between households and to maintain 2m social distancing particularly in pubs and clubs”

A new mobile testing unit for Blackburn with Darwen opened today at Corporation Park in Blackburn, situated close to the gatehouse on Preston New Road.

The permanent testing centre at Old Bank Lane in Blackburn, outside the Royal Blackburn Hospital, and a mobile testing site at Audley Sports Centre remain in operation.