‘If you don’t act now we are looking at a lockdown’: 11th hour warning to residents ahead of potential imminent local lockdown
Reporter: Charlotte Green
Date published: 12 August 2020
Coronavirus cases in the Oldham borough have been rapidly rising over recent weeks
Bosses have issued an eleventh hour warning to Oldham residents to comply with tougher coronavirus restrictions or face the government imposing a ‘devastating’ Leicester-style lockdown.
Cases in the borough have been rapidly rising over recent weeks, with the rate of infection now as high as it was during mid-April at the height of the pandemic.
The latest figures released today show there has been another spike of 255 cases in the week up to August 8 – almost double the previous week’s total of 137 cases.
The seven day infection rate is now standing at 107.5 cases per 100,000 people in the borough.
Leicester’s infection rate was 135 at the time that health secretary Matt Hancock announced lockdown restrictions would not be lifted in and around the city.
Cabinet member for Covid-19 recovery, councillor Arooj Shah, said the borough was in a really ‘serious’ situation with the number of rising cases, despite having brought back restrictions on households socialising two weeks ago.
And she suggested that a full lockdown could potentially be enacted across the whole of Greater Manchester.
“We are still seeing that increase in Oldham, we are really concerned about that now and this is a final plea from us to say that if you don’t act now we are looking at a lockdown,” Coun Shah added.
“And when I say a lockdown I mean within days, not weeks – it’s imminent.
“We will be faced with a situation where if the numbers don’t go down we will have to think about closing stuff that we’ve just reopened, which isn’t going to be good for our local business community either.
“People have to take responsibility to reduce this transmission that we’re seeing. It’s really, really concerning and people need to do the right thing.
“Act like you’ve got Covid and people around you have got Covid, be that cautious and that careful.
“I’m really worried because it will be devastating.
"Lockdown socially and economically will be so difficult for a place like Oldham.”
She said there had been a hundred calls to Greater Manchester Police over the weekend with reports of people breaking restrictions by hosting ‘household parties’ and barbecues.
“That’s just unacceptable,” Coun Shah added.
“The responsibility for this lies with the people of Oldham to do what’s right for them, their families and their friends but also for the local economy.
“We don’t want to be in a position where we have to close down local services, gyms, leisure centres and I completely get that people are fatigued but we have to do this.
“Right now we’re still in a position where if people act we can avoid it.
"This is ultimately in your hands.
"We will do whatever it takes to save lives.”
In Leicester the lifting of lockdown was delayed over concern about the numbers of Covid-19 cases, with pubs, restaurants, cafes and hair salons only reopening this week.
If measures are ramped up in Oldham and businesses are closed to try and curb new infections, it would be the first area in England where lockdown restrictions have been reinstated after being relaxed at the beginning of July.
Katrina Stephens, Oldham’s director of public health added: “This isn’t just about Oldham making a decision on its own, this is a conversation between us, colleagues in Greater Manchester but importantly with national government as well because a lot of the measures that a full lockdown would relate to need to be instigated by national government.
“It’s a two way conversation and because we’re acting on this early we’re in a position to have that.
“A local lockdown still isn’t inevitable, actually if people can work with us and follow that guidance then there is still that opportunity to turn round the tide of rising infections.
“I think the experience of Rochdale and Blackburn shows that that is possible but we need the support of everyone in terms of the choices they make.”
Asked whether a lockdown could be localised to only parts of Oldham, or the Oldham borough Coun Shah suggested that a full lockdown could have to be implemented across the whole of Greater Manchester.
“The virus doesn’t recognise any boundaries, local boundaries, borough wide or regional boundaries,” she said.
“You may live in Oldham but work in Manchester or vice versa.
"That transmission, there is a chance of it and I think that’s why across Greater Manchester we will be taking the same kind of precautions.
“That’s the best way that we think we’ll be able to manage the transmission.
“As of last week that’s what was suggested at the Covid strategic meeting – that it makes more sense.”
However, Ms Stephens added it was ‘too early to say’ what the lockdown would look like.
“It is difficult to pre-empt what that decision might look like if our numbers were to continue to increase and lockdown was something that was being considered,” she said.
The rules people in Oldham are being asked to follow are to spend time with those in your household and work from home where possible.
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