Northern lockdown to stay in place after 'significant change'

Restrictions in Trafford and Bolton will remain, meaning residents cannot meet people outside their bubbles either indoors in homes or in gardens, the Department of Health & Social Care said.

The latest data for Bolton shows the weekly incidence rate is now at 66.6 per 100,000 on Sunday, compared to 18.9 per 100,000 between August 17 and August 23, it said.

The latest data for Trafford shows a weekly incidence of 36.8 per 100,000 on Sunday, compared to 17.8 per 100,000 between August 17 and August 23.

However the lifting of restrictions in Burnley, Hyndburn, Stockport and parts of Calderdale, Kirklees and Bradford went ahead from noon on Wednesday.

Matt Hancock said: “This decision has been made in collaboration with local leaders after reviewing the latest data. We continually monitor outbreaks across the country, and have seen infection rates increase more than three times in Bolton in under a week, and double in Trafford since the last review.

“We have always been clear we will take swift and decisive action where needed to contain outbreaks. We can bring the rates down if we continue to work together and I urge everyone to continue to play their part by following the rules – get tested if you have symptoms, self-isolate and practice social distancing.”

Leaders in Greater Manchester had urged the Government to postpone the easing of lockdown restrictions in Bolton and Trafford just hours before measures were due to be lifted.

Social gatherings between two homes were due to resume for the first time in weeks from Wednesday in the areas, along with other parts of northern England, but a sharp increase in the local infection rate has led to officials asking the Government for a delay.

The rate of new Covid-19 cases in Bolton has jumped from 18.4 per 100,000 people in the seven days to August 22 to 59.1 in the seven days to August 29, with 170 new cases. The rate in Trafford has risen from 19.4 to 35.4, with 84 new cases.

Analysis showed that new cases in Bolton were spread across the borough and not limited to a single area, community, or place of work, said the town’s council.

Infections between different households appear to be the main cause of the spike with people aged 18-49 representing the overwhelming majority of new cases, it added.

Conservative leader of Bolton Council, Councillor David Greenhalgh, said: “We urged the Government to lift Bolton out of the additional restrictions at a time when infection rates were low.

“This was the right decision at the time.

“However, there has been a sudden and unforeseeable rise in the number of coronavirus cases in Bolton.

“We have always been led by the data, which means we have no choice but to act quickly to keep everyone safe.”

Certain businesses, including those offering close contact services, will not reopen as planned.

Council leaders in Trafford had recommended that restrictions be maintained to wait for more evidence of a sustained downward trend in positive cases but were overruled by the Government.

Labour council leader Andrew Western has written to Health Secretary Matt Hancock to “urgently request clarity” on the Government’s position on Trafford.

In his letter, Mr Western said: “Sadly I must highlight to you that Trafford has now returned to the Government’s own amber zone in terms of cases of 100,000 population, and now has a significantly higher rate of cases than some other Greater Manchester boroughs who are not due to see restrictions lifted tomorrow.

“In short, this decision has caused chaos and confusion that not only impacts potentially on the health of my residents but on the likelihood of compliance in neighbouring boroughs that now have a lower infection rate than Trafford.

“The proposed arrangements now make little sense.

“The system has been undermined by the Government’s decision-making processes.”

He added he was “very disappointed” that its representations to Government last week were “completely ignored” along with “two of our three local MPs, two of our three opposition group leaders and our director of public health”.

Mr Western said it “only serves to exacerbate fears that national government never intended to meaningfully consider such views but rather to only have regard for the views of Conservative MPs in the areas affected”.

Meanwhile, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA), which is made up of the 10 Greater Manchester councils and Mayor Andy Burnham, has called on the Government to agree on an exit strategy from the local restrictions on household gatherings “as soon as safely possible”, amid concerns the piecemeal lifting is causing confusion.

Mr Burnham has written to the Health Secretary offering help on targeted test and trace in the most affected communities.

A spokesperson for the GMCA said: “It is clear that more targeted, hyper-local door-to-door action is more effective than broad geographical restrictions. That is why the Mayor and Leaders want to agree an exit strategy with the Government for the current restrictions.

“However, before that is in place, it is accepted that the restrictions will need to continue in eight boroughs in the short term.

“As soon as practically and safely possible, we want to see the whole of Greater Manchester coming back into line with the rest of country but with funding to provide enhanced local interventions where they are needed.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We are working closely with leaders and local authorities across Greater Manchester and Lancashire in response to the changing situation and we keep all local restrictions under constant consideration.”

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