'No new restrictions in Oldham' urges Mayor of Manchester

19 August 2020, 16:49

Andy Burnham has urged the government not to introduce new restrictions in Oldham
Andy Burnham has urged the government not to introduce new restrictions in Oldham. Picture: YouTube
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham has urged the government not to introduce new coronavirus restrictions in Oldham.

The town has been flagged as a possible candidate for a local coronavirus lockdown since last month, a move that Oldham council leader Sean Fielding has warned would be "really catastrophic".

On Wednesday, Mr Burnham announced he was writing to Health Secretary Matt Hancock - with the support of all ten leaders of Manchester's boroughs - to demand "no new restrictions on Oldham beyond those already in place".

He will also request the relaxation of the ban on gatherings in Wigan and for businesses to further reopen across the city, excluding Oldham.

The mayor also published the latest case numbers for Greater Manchester, which showed the number of positive tests per 100,000 people in Oldham had dropped from 109.7 for the week ending 8 August, to 83.1 for the week ending 15 August.

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For the rest of the city, four other boroughs - Bolton, Rochdale, Stockport and Tameside - saw their rates go down last week, while five - Bury, Manchester, Salford, Trafford and Wigan - saw rates increase.

On the whole, Greater Manchester's rate dipped by just 0.1 last week - from 35.4 to 35.3 - a much slower decrease than the rise experienced in the previous three weeks.

Cllr Fielding said the "raw numbers" may suggest Oldham is at a similar point to when the city of Leicester was put into local lockdown, but he urged ministers not to impose one in the Greater Manchester town.

"We're strongly making the case up here in Oldham that that would not be the right solution for the wave of the pandemic that we're seeing in Oldham," he said.

He argued "household transmission" is driving infections in Oldham, while most cases are among the working-age population and there is little increase in hospital admissions or deaths.

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"We already have youth unemployment of 9.5 per cent and 15 per cent of unemployment generally so it would be really, really catastrophic for businesses and for the working-age population in Oldham if there were to be a local lockdown," he added.

"It's different to Leicester because Leicester never really properly reopened.

"This could be hundreds of businesses that have made themselves Covid-secure, spent money in doing so, reopened, traded for a short time, being asked to close again and the likelihood is many of those having done all of that would simply not be able to reopen once the restrictions are lifted again."

Earlier on Wednesday, the health secretary would not rule out a local lockdown for Oldham to prevent rising coronavirus cases, adding the town posed a "big challenge".

Mr Hancock told BBC News: "Places like Oldham where we are now seeing the number of cases rise, we have to take the same localised approach, working very closely with the local council and make sure we get both the messages to the public and also the rules right in place and the resources, like the testing resources, to get a grip on it in all the areas where there is an outbreak, including Oldham."

He also said the government "will do what is necessary" despite local concerns about a potential lockdown.

"We see from what's happened in Leicester over the past few weeks that where we put a local lockdown in place it then has been effective... but we will do what is necessary (in Oldham) and we will work very closely with the council, who have also got a really important part to play in this," he said.

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