THE government placing the whole of Lancashire into the toughest coronavirus restrictions has been condemned by Ribble Valley Council’s Conservative leader.

Cllr Stephen Atkinson said the decision to include the low-Covid-19 rating borough with the rest of the county in tier 3 was ‘devastating’.

His criticism of Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s announcement was echoed by his Pendle Labour counterpart Cllr Mohammed Iqbal and Blackburn MP Kate Hollern.

Cllr Atkinson said: “Putting Ribble Valley into tier 3 without sufficient justification will be devastating for the borough’s hospitality businesses, which are disproportionately affected by these restrictions.

“I don’t believe there is enough justification for restricting people’s lives to this extent at this time and am urging the government to review these measures in Ribble Valley as soon as possible.”

Cllr Iqbal said: “The government is continuing to punish Lancashire with no real economic support. Our hospitality sector will be decimated.”

Labour’s Mrs Hollern said: “I am really disappointed after all the sacrifices the people of Blackburn have made we are still in tier 3, but while infection rates are coming down we are not there yet.”

Mr Hancock gave his reasons for all Lancashire being in tier 3.

He said: “While there have been improvements in some areas, case rates and the proportion of tests which are positive for Covid-19 remain high. Case rates in over-60s are very high. There is still pressure on the NHS.”

Professor Dominic Harrison, Blackburn with Darwen Council’s public health director, said: “There is no doubt that parts of Lancashire will feel a single tier 3 judgement for the whole county is unfair as some local areas have much lower rates than the county average.

“However it is clear that the government has chosen to put all English areas into larger footprints and have erred on the side of caution.”

His Lancashire County Council counterpart Dr Sakthi Karunanithi said: “We are very hopeful the levels of infection will go down. In spite of all the hard work the virus is digging deep trenches on our way.

“There are many areas of the county, particularly as you go towards the west coast, which are having very low rates so if there was going to be a differential approach in Lancashire those areas will probably meet the criteria before others.”

Blackburn with Darwen Council leader Cllr Mohammed Khan said: “The fact remains, like many other areas in the country, our cases are too high.

"We are higher than the national average and hospital admissions are too high as well.

"Our plea to government is to deliver on your promises of support otherwise we are fighting this virus with one arm tied behind our back.”

Burnley Council leader Cllr Mark Townsend said: "This is a disappointing but understandable step by the government given our existing high infection rates and hospital admissions.”