THE leader of Barrow Borough Council has backed the idea of local lockdowns to prevent the further spread of coronavirus.

Councillor Ann Thomson welcomed the idea after Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced such measures would be imposed if areas had new ‘flare-ups’ of the virus.

Questions continue to be asked as to why Barrow has a much higher rate of coronavirus cases than the rest of England, as Mr Hancock said areas with high infection rates could have their own lockdowns.

There is no suggestion yet that Barrow would be one of those areas and community leaders are confident it will not happen.

Barrow Council leader Ann Thomson said: “Though we would support local lockdowns in principle where flare-ups occur, we would like to have more information about the reasons behind Barrow’s higher figure so we can make sure the most effective measures possible are in place to protect and support our vulnerable residents.

“We thank our communities for their efforts to support the lockdown so far, it hasn’t been easy but we know people have pulled together and stuck to the rules.

“We would urge people not to lose sight of those efforts now.”

In response to a question at Tuesday's coronavirus briefing from The Mail's sister paper, The News & Star, Mr Hancock said: “I know there’s been a specific problem in terms of flare-ups and in terms of the number of cases, particularly in Barrow-in-Furness. We will have local lockdowns in future where there are flare-ups.”

Mr Hancock said local lockdowns would form part of the Government’s new NHS test and trace system launching soon and a decision to impose one would be made with local public health chiefs.

Barrow councillor Bill McEwan said: “Some people in Barrow have been ignoring the rules, but I don’t think we will end up having to go into a local lockdown. It would be chaotic - people would go against the guidelines."

Barrow MP Simon Fell said he thought lockdown measures would not be need to be used ‘so long as we stay the course’.

“It would be safe to assume that this would mean moving up and down the scale of what is permissible in an area - so reducing the ‘unlimited exercise’ allowance for instance,” he said.

“But until there is guidance on this it is only speculation on my part.”

Cumbria’s public health director Colin Cox said: “We note the Secretary of State’s comments regarding the possibility of local lockdowns and agree that the option to put these in place if necessary is sensible. There is however a significant amount of work to do to understand how, and on what basis, such lockdowns could be implemented.

“Any local lockdown will require community support to work, so good engagement and communication will be critical. Clear guidance will be required and we hope to be involved in discussions with Government.”