By Charlotte Green, Local Democracy Reporter
TOUGHER restrictions which ban people from socialising with anyone they don’t live with are to remain in place for a further week in Oldham, the government has confirmed.
The number of new coronavirus cases in the borough is now on a downward trend after spiking dramatically in the first week of August.
The infection rate had climbed to 108 per 100,000 people, with 266 cases recorded in the seven days to August 11.
Now the rate has now more than halved, down to 51.9 for the week ending August 24, with 123 cases.
However, the borough still has the highest incidences of Covid-19 in the country, according to Public Health England.
It had been feared Oldham was on the edge of being plunged into a full Leicester-style lockdown, with its pubs, restaurants and non-essential businesses forced to shut.
However, ramped up targeted testing and other measures, including sending teams out to speak to residents in hardest hit areas, have been successful in bringing numbers down significantly.
Oldham Council leader Sean Fielding said: “I think our targeted communications in some of the areas that are most affected has had a real impact.
“I know people who live in those communities in central Oldham say there has been a noticeable behavioural change and they see more people wearing face coverings than before – and that’s all over the borough.
“There has been more compliance in pubs and bars and restaurants and we have taken some action against a pub that hasn’t been complying, where there were large gatherings.
“What’s worked is increasing enforcement and targeted messaging and door to door testing as well, finding the infection and telling people to self isolate.
“We have come past the second peak now, provided we can keep up the momentum.”
Last Friday health secretary Matt Hancock agreed with the position of local leaders that a full lockdown would not be necessary in Oldham. Cllr Fielding said that such a decision would have been ‘catastrophic’.
“It was a huge relief that we didn’t go into full lockdown. The damage to the economy, to people’s mental health would have been irreparable for decades,” he added.
However stricter measures were put in place, with people living in Oldham, as well as specific wards in Pendle and Blackburn, no longer allowed to socialise with anyone outside their household and only use public transport if essential.
The rules don’t prevent people from shopping, going to work or attending childcare settings, including schools, which open from September 1.
The numbers of people who can attend weddings, civil partnerships and funerals has also been limited to household members and close family and no more than 20 people.
Local restaurants are being encouraged to stop taking walk-ins, and only seat people who make reservations in advance, up to a maximum of six people per table.
The government has confirmed on Friday, August 28 that these measures are remaining in place for a further week.
The government also confirmed that Stockport, Bolton and Trafford were being removed from the lockdown measures preventing different households socialising inside.
A ban on two households mixing indoors will continue in Manchester, Salford, Rochdale, Bury, and Tameside.