Oldham escapes full lockdown – measures relaxed in Wigan, Rossendale and Darwen

Cllr Sean Fielding

Oldham has escaped being placed into full economic lockdown, but will be subject to new social mixing measures.

Meanwhile, Wigan is to be released from the existing Greater Manchester restrictions after returning low coronavirus rates, although all other Greater Manchester boroughs will remain subject to original restrictions imposed at the end of July.

Oldham has been particularly badly affected by instances of the virus

Although coronavirus infection levels have fallen in Oldham, it is still one of the highest rates in England, despite a fall in recent days.

The infection rate in Oldham was shown to be 78.9 per 100,000 people in the week ending Monday, August 17, down from the previous reading of 84.4.

Figures show there were 187 positive tests in Oldham in the week ending August 17, which was 78 fewer than the previous week – a fall of nearly 30%.

But there was a spike in neighbouring Rochdale, and the rate in Manchester continues to stay very high, remaining just below a ‘red alert’ threshold.

Salford is also another area where the number of coronavirus cases has grown in recent weeks.

In the week ending August 16, the infection rate in the borough reached 36.7 per 100,000 people – up from 24.3 a week earlier, which means Salford is on ‘amber’ alert for the coronavirus.

From next week councils and MPs will be asked to recommend individual neighbourhoods that could be taken out of existing restrictions if their case numbers are low enough, in a departure from existing rules.

According to Oldham Council leader, Sean Fielding, people in Oldham will be told not to socialise with other households anywhere from midnight on Saturday, which is a stricter message than current rules which had allowed people to meet in outside public spaces such as parks and outside pubs and restaurants.

Oldham residents will also be asked to only use public transport for essential travel, such as work and school.

Testing and localised messaging will continue to be ramped up.

The Department of Health said measures will be relaxed in Wigan, Rossendale and Darwen.

In a statement released on Twitter, Cllr Fielding said: “Over the last few weeks Oldham’s coronavirus cases have been increasing in a way that places us under threat of lockdown.

“We’ve made it clear to government that a local lockdown with the closure of businesses would not be the solution for businesses.

“Our alternative was an alternative which put forward some measures to reduce social mixing and increase the targeting and enforcement of testing in areas where it is needed most.

“It’s fantastic the Government has been receptive to our approach.

“What the new restrictions mean in practical terms are that social mixing between households will now be prohibited.

“We are also seeking to reduce the numbers of people who can attend funerals or weddings.

“I know this is a difficult time, but we need to pull together to bring down the cases and avoid any future threat of local lockdown or further national lockdown.

“Together we can come through this crisis.”

Wigan will be released from the broader Greater Manchester restrictions after calls from Leigh MP James Grundy and the mayor and council leaders.

Chris Fletcher, policy and campaigns director at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, said: “We are pleased to hear that Oldham has avoided a full local lockdown as it would have had a huge impact on the local economy.

“However, there is still the risk that local lockdowns could be used in the future.

“If local lockdowns are to be used there has to be total clarity and accountability in how this is communicated from the first message through to the last.

“The recent introduction of GM-wide measures was poorly communicated, with very little notice from national government, and at a time when people needed clear instructions and guidance the manner it was announced created more questions than answers.

“There must also be a package of financial support available to any business or employee that is affected in any way by any future lockdown.

“It isn’t enough to just look at businesses based in lockdown areas. If employees are prevented from travelling to jobs in areas outside of lockdown then this will have a significant impact, too, and should be taken into account.”

He added: “The economy right across Greater Manchester has been hit hard already and it is beyond doubt that if there are local lockdowns in the future they will have an even greater impact.

“The health of a community is paramount and we understand the role of more localised lockdowns in combating COVID-19, but there has to be recognition by government and action taken in the setting up of localised financial targeted packages that will be needed to support jobs and business in those areas affected.”