Bolton and Trafford kept in lockdown following plea from local council

2 September 2020, 12:37 | Updated: 2 September 2020, 16:29

Matt Hancock has put Bolton and Trafford back into lockdown
Matt Hancock has put Bolton and Trafford back into lockdown. Picture: PA

Bolton and Trafford have been put back into lockdown, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has confirmed.

He said it was "following a significant change in the level of infection rates over the last few days".

The Government lifted restrictions on households mixing at midnight, despite pleas from council leaders to keep the rules in place following a spike in cases.

In a statement, health secretary Matt Hancock said: “Following a significant change in the level of infection rates over the last few days, a decision has been taken that Bolton and Trafford will now remain under existing restrictions.

“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.”

Local leaders, however, claimed they had been "completely ignored" by the Government for days after several high-profile politicians from the Greater Manchester area wrote to the government pleading for an extension to restrictions.

It follows calls from the area's mayor Andy Burnham for residents in Bolton and Trafford to ignore the "completely illogical" lifting of lockdown restrictions.

On Wednesday morning, Mr Burnham told reporters: "We find ourselves at a completely unsustainable position this morning - that's the politest way I can put it.

"Overnight we've had restrictions released in two boroughs where we've got a rising number of cases - in one case in the red zone - and neighbouring boroughs are still under restrictions but with much lower numbers of cases.

"These restrictions were always hard to explain to the public but they are completely illogical now."

He later compared the Government's weekly announcements to "waiting for the white smoke out of the Vatican".

He said: "National government sitting in Whitehall imposing decisions on local communities has got to stop, we can't have that any more. It's not working, it's confusing people, it's causing anger and resentment.

"In my view it's local councils that need to be in the driving seat here, working then in consultation with the Government."

Andy Burnham told Bolton and Trafford residents to ignore the lifting of lockdown
Andy Burnham told Bolton and Trafford residents to ignore the lifting of lockdown. Picture: PA Images

In Bolton, analysis by the town's council shows that new cases were spread across the borough and not limited to a single area, community, or place of work.

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.

Read more: Government to launch return to workplace campaign this week

On Tuesday, the Conservative leader of Bolton Council, 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."

Meanwhile on Wednesday, Labour MP Kate Green told LBC that some Tory MPs in Trafford had been pushing for lockdown restrictions to lifted as they wanted to avoid the "inconvenience" of the rules.

She told Shelagh Fogarty: "They don't want the inconvenience of a lockdown. They somehow believe they're going to be immune from the spread of an infection that we have seen is quite willing to go on the attack.

"We should be suppressing it everywhere."