Oldham on brink of full lockdown as coronavirus cases surge

Amy Jones
·4-min read
Pedestrians wear face masks as they walk down a street in Oldham, where virus cases are rising - Oli Scarff/AFP
Pedestrians wear face masks as they walk down a street in Oldham, where virus cases are rising - Oli Scarff/AFP
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter

Oldham was on the verge of being placed in a full coronavirus lockdown on Thursday night as the Government considered shutting bars, restaurants and gyms in the Greater Manchester borough.

The Government has been consulting the local council about potential new restrictions, and an announcement on whether to implement further measures is expected on Friday.

Oldham now has the highest seven-day coronavirus infection rate in the country, with 108.8 cases per 100,000 people.

Katrina Stephens, the director of public health for Oldham Council, said a full lockdown could take place in "days rather than weeks" unless people adhered to rules.

New restrictions were put in place in the borough two weeks ago, meaning gatherings in homes are prohibited.

Despite the measures, which cover the whole of Greater Manchester, coronavirus has continued to spread, with 255 new cases recorded last week.

Greater Manchester Police received 1,106 reports last weekend of people flouting restrictions, with 540 of those relating to house gatherings and parties.

On Thursday, ministers were urged not to take the "easy route" by implementing a full-scale lockdown. Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester (see video above), warned that to do so would have "serious consequences" and asked the Government to give the current restrictions more "time to work".

Mr Burnham said a full lockdown "should only be considered when everything else has been tried first", adding: "To go from where we are today to full lockdown, that would present serious difficulties for the public but also for Greater Manchester services as well."

He confirmed he had written to Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, alongside the Manchester City Council leader, Sir Richard Leese, to set out his concerns.

Mr Burnham is also pushing the Government not to roll back further restrictions in the wider Manchester area (see graphic below) this weekend. It is understood officials are considering whether to relax lockdown further by allowing the remaining shut venues, such as casinos and bowling alleys, to reopen.

"The first thing that we've said to the Health Secretary is that we don't believe that it would be right to see the further relaxation with regard to the opening of a range of additional business premises this weekend or in the near future," the Mayor said.

Rather than imposing draconian new rules on certain boroughs, he argued in favour of targeted enforcement against pubs, restaurants and supermarkets failing to follow the guidance.

Speaking during a weekly press briefing, he said: "We need to see the pubs, particularly, implementing the measures, capturing people's names and addresses, so we can then make sure that the test and trace system is working as well as it should do.

"The message goes out to colleagues in the pub industry – we need you to get more serious about this. We need your support, and we need it now."

Watch video below

He also said he would be writing to the major supermarkets to call for a stricter approach to enforcing the wearing of face coverings in stores.

Sir Richard said the vast majority of those testing positive for coronavirus in Greater Manchester were now either asymptomatic or had mild symptoms, so hospital admissions were "minimal".

It is also feared Northampton could face a local lockdown after almost 300 sandwich factory workers tested positive for coronavirus.

There have been 70 confirmed cases in the region in the past week, and council leader Jonathan Nunn said the situation "could go either way".

Mr Nunn said it was "not certain" whether the region would enter restrictions, saying: "It is still within our grasp to avoid local lockdown, but we have got to keep the pressure up. I'm afraid we have to keep our foot on the gas and keep going. We have to continue all these initiatives. Whatever you have heard is a good precaution, just keep doing it."

Nottinghamshire County Council on Thursday designated Newark and Sherwood an "area of concern" due to increasing virus cases in the area. It was placed under the Government's watch list of places kept under close scrutiny following a "sharp rise" in infections.

The director of public health for Nottinghamshire, Jonathan Gribbin, said: "It is of critical importance that strict measures to prevent the transmission of Covid-19 are in place across the whole community, all of our workplaces, and in any setting where we meet with people outside of our immediate household."

Meanwhile, Leicester City Council revealed that it had spent £120,000 of central Government funding to buy tens of thousands of face masks for its most vulnerable residents. All 15,000 people in Leicester classed as clinically extremely vulnerable will receive a packet of two face coverings in the post, while local voluntary sector organisations will also receive a supply.