Businesses reject local lockdown amid Indian variant ‘Don’t punish us’
Indian variant: Professor John Ashton discusses the three strains
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The advice – including not to travel in or out of the areas – was published on Friday but went unnoticed until yesterday. It covers Bedford, Blackburn and Darwen, Bolton, Burnley, Kirklees, Leicester, Hounslow in west London and North Tyneside. Yesterday in a U-turn, Downing Street tried to cool the row by stressing that the guidance, set out on a government website, was “not statutory” and only advisory.
And in Bolton, Tory leader of the council David Greenhalgh denied they were under any local lockdown – and they would oppose any further measures.
He said: “There are no added restrictions coming to Bolton, there is no local lockdown.”
He added that “local lockdowns do not work” and Bolton has already had “disproportionately unfair experience” of them.
He said: “All the evidence points to the vaccine holding up.”
The town is suffering the highest proportion of Covid cases anywhere in the country due to the Indian variant.
While Bolton has 450.7 Covid cases per 100,000 people, nearby Oldham has 26.1, Stockport 19.8, Tameside 22.1 and Salford 32.5.
But the rate in Bolton has been declining, with 5.9 percent of all PCR swabs testing positive according to latest figures, compared to 8.1 percent a week earlier.
Across Greater Manchester, 63 percent of all adults – 1,545,559 people – have had their first jab and 38 per cent – 943,544 – have had their second.
However, on Monday, Royal Bolton Hospital reported one of its busiest ever days for its emergency department. There were 43 inpatients with Covid.
Andy Ennis, deputy chief executive of Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, said yesterday: “We are now seeing more people requiring hospital treatment from the effects of Covid-19.
“Whilst we have discharged a number overnight, today we still have 41 inpatients with Covid, including eight in critical care.
“Going into the bank holiday weekend and half-term, which is always a busy time for the NHS, we anticipate this pressure continuing.” Bolton South East MP Yasmin Qureshi said of new travel guidance advising residents to stay local: “I am very angry and upset on behalf of my constituents who may have booked to go away.
“Had they known about this guidance I am sure the majority would not have made plans.”
Adele Warren, Tory councillor for Breightmet in Bolton, said: “We can’t decimate our town and our businesses. That’s how people afford to live. Also, people have lockdown fatigue.”
Bolton pub landlord Daniel Loynd, 31, who owns the Para Cafe, said to PM Boris Johnson: “Either lock us down or leave us alone.” He added: “I think they are not using the term lockdown so they don’t have to support us financially.”
Meanwhile, Andy Burnham, the Labour Mayor of Greater Manchester, said there would be a concern that “this will be a local lockdown by stealth” or a return to the tier system. He added: “We do not wish to see any return to local lockdowns, we do not believe they worked.”
Blackburn with Darwen’s director of public health Dominic Harrison said the affected areas in Lancashire “were not consulted with, warned of, notified about, or alerted to this guidance”.
Leicester’s director of public health said officials had confirmed “there are no restrictions on travel in or out of our areas” and any claims otherwise are a “mistake”. Prof Ivan Browne added: “There is no justification for Leicester to be treated differently to the rest of the country.”
North Tyneside’s director of public health, Wendy Burke, said: “We have met with national officials and confirmed there are no local lockdowns.”
Bedford pubs planning to take advantage of the bank holiday say they are unsure what to do.
Publican Sean O’Donnell, of the King’s Arms, said: “We’re very nervous. Do I order for the bank holiday? Are we going to get closed down again? Everybody’s livelihoods are threatened once again.”
In Hounslow, the infection rate is just 50.1 cases per 100,000 but Hammersmith and Fulham Council promise surge testing.
Last night the Department of Health and Social Care said guidance for the eight Covid-19 Indian variant hotspots is to be updated to “make it clearer we are not imposing local restrictions.
“Instead, we’re providing advice on the additional precautions people can take to protect themselves and others in those areas where the new variant is prevalent.
“This includes, wherever possible, trying to meet outdoors rather than indoors, keeping 2m apart from anyone you don’t live with and minimising travel in and out the area.”
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