EAST Lancashire’s public health directors have warned that tough coronavirus restrictions could be here to stay after the county was moved into the ‘Very High’ level of alert.

And Prime Minister Boris Johnson refused to give a date on when the tier three status was likely to end when quizzed by the Lancashire Telegraph this afternoon.

The new measures mean that non-food pubs and clubs will shut and household mixing outdoors will be much more tightly limited but gyms and fitness clubs will be allowed to stay open.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced the upgrading today blaming ‘an unrelenting rise in cases in Lancashire’ for the decision.

The new tier three Covid alert level, up from tier two, take effect for four weeks at midnight with bingo halls, bookmakers, betting shops and soft play areas also ordered to close from Monday when car boot sales will also be banned.

It means Lancashire residents are not allowed to meet socially with anybody not part of their household or support bubble indoors or in private or pub gardens, but can do so in parks, beaches, or countryside in a group of six or fewer.

Blackburn with Darwen Council’s public health director Professor Dominic Harrison and his Lancashire County Council counterpart Dr Sakthi Karunanithi warned that the restrictions could last much longer.

In a joint statement they said: “We are at a very dangerous phase of the pandemic. Infection rates are going up across Lancashire, hospitals are getting busier and people are quite frankly sick of coronavirus and just want life to return to normal.

“That’s something we all want, but we have to level with you – it isn’t happening any time soon.

“All of our lives have been affected by coronavirus and will continue to be so until we have a vaccine.

“Now that Lancashire has entered tier three the next month is critical to getting the virus under control.”

Tackled on how long the tier three status might last by the Lancashire Telegraph at his Downing Street press conference, Mr Johnson said: “You are asking the most important question which is really about people’s ability to keep going with this.

“I just want to say a massive thank you to people in Lancashire who have been going through some pretty tough times for a very long time now.

“I want say thank to local council leaders who I talked to this morning for the steps that they’re taking to reduce the spread of the virus in Lancashire.

“You know we can do it. We can do it together.

“If we all work together on the measures we have outlined we can definitely do it and I’d like to see Lancashire and everywhere else coming out of tier three as fast as possible.”

Parts of North and Central Blackburn and Nelson and Brierfield in Pendle have been under tight restrictions since August.

Blackburn with Darwen Council leader Cllr Mohammed Khan said: “Given the public health situation, reluctantly I, along with other leaders, accepted the proposal to put us in tier three. I had no alternative given it would have been imposed on us with no extra support and the worsening public health situation.

“The support the government have agreed is a start but I believe more needs to be done.

“I know some residents and businesses will be anxious following this decision. We have been living under different restrictions in this borough for months. People are sick and tired of the situation and just want a return to a semblance of normality.”

But Cllr Mohammed Iqbal, leader of Pendle Council, said: “I don’t think these restrictions will control coronavirus in Pendle or in Lancashire as a whole.”

Cllr Geoff Driver, leader of Lancashire County Council, said: “Across Lancashire, the coronavirus situation is serious and getting worse. Lancashire’s leaders all agree that, as we approach winter, urgent action has to be taken now.”

Under the deal the county has secured £42million in a package of financial support for businesses, the care sector and schools. Initially, only £12m was on the table.

Cllr Driver, insisted the county had negotiated a “really good deal” to secure an extra £30million for local councils.

He told reporters: “We have not closed our gyms and leisure centres. We have got additional help and promises with regard to testing and tracing and we have got a ministerial team that is going to help us.

“I know what some of my colleague leaders are saying, but as far as I’m concerned, considering where we started, it is a really good deal.”

Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans said: “I am extremely disappointed that restrictions on our lives have had to be put in place yet again. The figures of new infections in Lancashire and the Ribble Valley have escalated dramatically in recent weeks. If the trend continues, hospital capacity would be exceeded by the end of the month.”