Oldham politicians welcome Government backing to tighten restrictions and avoid local lockdown

OLDHAM’S council leader and three MPs have welcomed the Government’s agreement to tighten restrictions in the borough rather than impose a local lockdown.

The number of positive tests in the area had risen to 109.7 people per 100,000 for the week ending August 8, putting the borough in danger of a Leicester-style lockdown.

But for the week ending August 15 the figure was down to 83.1, according to data by GMCA, after targeted tests and other measures were introduced.

Oldham Council leader Cllr Sean Fielding and the borough’s MPs wrote to the Health Secretary Matt Hancock suggesting an alternative to a lockdown including measures to reduce social mixing and increase targeted testing and enforcement in areas where it is needed most.

Cllr Fielding announced on Twitter on Friday, August 21 that the alternative has been accepted by the Government and a local lockdown has been avoided for now.

He said: “It is fantastic that the Government has been receptive to our approach and has faith in us as a borough to deliver those pledges and continue to bring the number of coronavirus cases in the borough down.”

The tighter restrictions being brought into place from Saturday, August 22 (00:01am) are in addition to national guidance relating to coronavirus and apply to Oldham residents, businesses and anyone visiting the Oldham area:

  • You can not socialise with anyone who does not live in your house (unless they are part of your support bubble).
  • You must avoid using public transport, except for essential travel
  • When visiting shops, when on public transport or in other enclosed or crowded spaces you should wear a face covering.
  • Weddings, civil partnerships and funerals should be limited to household members and close family and no more than 20 people.
  • Restaurants will also be encouraged to only seat people who make reservations in advance, up to a maximum of six people per table.
  • If you run a pub, restaurant, cafe, shop, place of worship, community centre, leisure and entertainment venue, or visitor attraction, you should ensure people maintain social distancing and avoid physical contact.

Oldham Council is advising any residents who have recently shielded to continue taking extra care now that the shielding process has formally ended in Oldham.

Cllr Fielding, along with MPs Angela Rayner, Jim McMahon and Debbie Abrahams, also called for a more collaborative and clearer approach based on evidence rather than politics to tackle Covid-19.

In a joint statement they said: “The amount of work from council officers, volunteers, public health officials and residents in recent weeks to bring the spike we’ve seen in Oldham under control has been phenomenal. While the hard work doesn’t stop now, it’s encouraging to see case numbers beginning to drop.

“It will be a big relief to residents and businesses across the borough that the Government has followed the evidence this time and chosen not to impose a lockdown. The data to support a lockdown just isn’t there, which is why we’ve been arguing so hard against it.

“Recent weeks have shown how easily cases can rise, particularly in areas where cramped or overcrowded housing makes household transmission so hard to avoid.

“What our experience in Oldham shows is how fundamentally important it is that we finally get the test and trace system right. We’ll only be able to get back to something like normal if we can quickly identify cases and stop the chain of transmission.

“Unfortunately, contact rates from the national test and trace system are still far too low. We need Government to listen to local experts, and give them the resources, the data and the responsibility to take the lead on this.

MP Jim McMahon, second left, out in the community

“Alongside fixing test and trace, it remains vital that residents continue to follow the guidance on social distancing and hygiene, and self-isolate if they need to. Most people and businesses in Oldham are doing exactly the right thing, but it’s something we all have to take very seriously.

“We urge everyone in our community to come together to fight this virus and abide by the restrictions so we can get through this and come out the other side.

“Government can help a lot by being clear in their communications with people. Too much fragmentation, with rules changing regularly and being applied to small geographies, will only cause confusion.

“We’ve shown in the last few weeks what we can do. If we’re going to build back better, we need Government to trust local people to take the lead. That means not only holding up their end of the bargain on test and trace, but also fulfilling their promise that local authorities wouldn’t be left of our pocket by the pandemic.

“With the necessary resources Oldham has shown the kind of place it can be. Another decade of savage austerity though will make it impossible to fulfil our potential.”

As new information is available on the additional restrictions in Oldham it will be added to https://www.oldham.gov.uk/coronavirus

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