Coronavirus: Bolton restrictions tightened amid rise in cases

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Media captionMatt Hancock: “We will restrict all hospitality to takeaways only”

Tighter coronavirus restrictions have been introduced in Bolton, including only allowing takeaways and curtailing nightlife, after a rise in cases.

All hospitality venues will be limited to takeaway and must be closed to customers between 22:00 BST and 05:00 each day.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the town in Greater Manchester had “the highest case rate in the country.”

A further 2,420 new coronavirus cases were reported across the UK on Tuesday.

Overall, there have been 8,356 new cases reported since Sunday.

A further 30 deaths within 28 days of a positive test across all settings were recorded on Tuesday – with the average number of daily deaths over the past week now around 11.

Ministers and government advisers expressed concern over a “sharp rise” in cases and a “heartfelt” apology was issued following shortages in England’s testing system.

Mr Hancock told the House of Commons: “Unfortunately, after improving for several weeks, we’ve seen a very significant rise in cases in Bolton.

“The rise in cases in Bolton is partly due to socialising by people in their 20s and 30s. We know this from contact tracing.

“And through our contact tracing system we’ve identified a number of pubs at which the virus has spread significantly.”

He said there were 120 cases per 100,000 in Bolton, which had already been under stricter lockdown measures.

The new measures, which come into force immediately, include:

  • All hospitality for food and drink (restaurants, cafes, bars and pubs) are now restricted to takeaway only
  • Late night restriction of operating hours, meaning all venues, including takeaways, will be required to close from 22:00 to 05:00
  • It will become illegal for people to socialise with those outside their own household in any setting, even outdoors

Schools in Bolton will continue to welcome pupils as usual, Bolton Council said.

Council leader Cllr David Greenhalgh said: “This is not something we want to do, but it is clear the virus is currently moving round the borough uncontrolled and so we need to halt the transmission rate.”

Muhammad Memon, 37, who owns Kids World clothing shop in Bolton town centre, said he had real fears about keeping his business afloat in light of the new restrictions.

“Town is empty. Four big retailers have shut down near me since lockdown,” he said. “There is no footfall.”

“I am praying for help from the government,” he added.

The Alma Inn pub and music venue in Bolton announced on Facebook it would now close permanently, two days after it said a customer tested positive for Covid-19.

As well as restricting hospitality venues, Mr Hancock said visitor limits will also be put in place in care homes in Bolton.

The health secretary said: “I want us to learn the lesson from Spain, America and France – not to have to learn the lesson all over again ourselves through more hospitalisations and more deaths, and take this action locally in Bolton.”

The move comes after plans to ease restrictions in Bolton were scrapped last week following a spike in Covid-19 cases.

Mr Hancock also told MPs that a strict local lockdown in Leicester had resulted in a “very significant” drop in cases, with measures there to be reviewed on Thursday.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Demand at local coronavirus testing sites in Bolton has led to queues of people and cars

It came as students at universities across Greater Manchester, including in Bolton, have been warned they face sanctions if they break rules to limit the spread of coronavirus.

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson’s official spokesman was asked whether the government was considering a change in guidance on household gatherings across England.

The spokesman said it was being kept under review and that ministers would not hesitate to act if needed.

Guidance in England currently says two households can meet indoors. Outdoors up to six people from different households can meet – or up to 30 people from two households.

The UK government’s chief medical adviser, Prof Chris Whitty, said Covid-19 rates are now rising, especially amongst people between the ages of 17 and 29.

He warned that if people stopped social distancing then “Covid comes back”.

‘Relaxed too much’

England’s deputy chief medical officer Prof Jonathan Van Tam added: “People have relaxed too much. Now is the time for us to re-engage, and to realise that this is a continuing threat to us.”

Although there has been a sharp rise in coronavirus cases reported in the last few days, the 30 deaths recorded on Tuesday are unrelated.

It takes time from becoming infected to developing symptoms. Someone who is very sick in hospital with coronavirus and who sadly dies will have caught the infection weeks before.

Earlier, Mr Hancock told MPs that a “sharp rise” in coronavirus cases in recent days had been across the whole country rather than in localised “hotspots”.

Other parts of the UK are also facing tougher restrictions.

In Wales, the county borough of Caerphilly is now under a local lockdown lasting until at least October, prompting a “rush” for tests.

Stricter rules on visiting other people’s homes were also extended to two more areas in the west of Scotland from midnight.

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