Published Friday 17 July 2020 at 13:00
Blackburn with Darwen Council has announced it will look to open its leisure and community centres in August.
Nationally, the Government has said that gyms and swimming pools can re-open from July 25 if appropriate measures are in place.
However, the borough is currently in the top 10 list of local authorities that have higher rates of COVID-19 cases per 100,000.
And, in a bid to reduce the rates of infection to avoid a local lockdown, five new measures have been introduced for all residents.
They include reducing the numbers allowed to visit households to two, asking residents to wear a face covering in all enclosed public spaces and encouraging people to be tested.
Now, the council has announced that its leisure and community centres will instead look to open next month – on August 10.
Professor Dominic Harrison, Blackburn with Darwen’s Director for Public Health, said:
These decisions aren’t ever taken lightly. We know that these centres are popular with our residents and fundamental to their health and wellbeing.
We also don’t want residents to worry that this is part of a wider closure programme – it isn’t – we are doing everything in our power to avoid that.
Our staff had been working really hard to take the steps needed to make the facilities COVID safe and were really looking forward to being able to welcoming residents back safely.
However, as part of our dedicated approach to reducing the spread of Coronavirus in our borough, we are asking residents to play their part by adopting the five new measures we have introduced.
We’re also doing absolutely everything we can to stem the tide of infection rates.
Delaying the opening of these centres is another important step in our local outbreak response.
Full risk assessments and operational planning had been undertaken ready to reopen the centres on July 25, in-line with national guidance.
Now, staff are working hard on new offers – including live streaming of free classes for members and outdoor activities.
Professor Harrison said:
We have worked hard on a whole range of measures to be able to open our centres safely when the time is right.
This includes extensive and frequent cleaning, one way systems and pre-bookable slots.
However, with the number of cases of Coronavirus rising in Blackburn with Darwen at a rate above the national average, our number one priority remains the safety of our residents and our staff.
We are doing absolutely everything we can to prevent a second lockdown and have committed to reviewing the data again in two weeks’ time.
All membership fees continue to be fully suspended at the centres.
The five measures to be undertaken for the next month include:
- A limit of two people from the same household allowed to visit another household
At the moment national guidance allows two families to meet indoors as long as they keep to social distancing guidance. We are asking residents to limit the numbers of people meeting indoors to people who live in the house plus only two members from a second household at any one time.
- Wearing cloth face coverings in all enclosed public spaces
All residents will be strongly recommended to wear a cloth face covering (or non-surgical mask) in all enclosed public spaces. This means in all shops, workplaces, libraries, museums, health centres, hair and beauty salons etc.
- Greeting and embracing
Rather than give handshakes or a hug, we’re asking people to only bump elbows with anyone outside of their immediate family. If we all do it, no one will be offended or think we’re being rude!
- Support for small shops
We are stepping up our Public Protection advice and support to small shops across the borough to ensure that measures such as wearing face coverings, social distancing, good hygiene practice and increased ventilation are being followed to help reduce the risk of virus spread in these businesses.
We are doing more targeted testing this week, with the arrival of a mobile testing unit at Witton Park Academy in addition to the testing facility at Royal Blackburn Hospital. You don’t need to have symptoms to be tested – this will help us with case finding, identifying people who have no symptoms but who carry the virus.
To book a test, please click here.