Bolton council will formally ask the government to keep its coronavirus restrictions in place, less than 24 hours before they were due to be lifted, following a sharp rise in confirmed cases.
The Greater Manchester town was one of several areas across north-west England that was due on Wednesday to be freed from the measures imposed on 31 July.
However, local leaders became alarmed at a spike in cases that has seen its infection rate rise to the highest in England, alongside Oldham, according to NHS Digital data published on Tuesday.
The move comes only four days after the health secretary, Matt Hancock, announced that more than 1 million people would be allowed to visit their friends and family again from Wednesday.
The announcement prompted fury among Labour MPs and council leaders, who accused the government of overruling local public health decisions in order to appease Conservative MPs.
It is understood that the Conservative leader of Bolton council, David Greenhalgh, and others had wanted the town of 285,000 people to be freed from the lockdown measures but that the picture changed over the bank holiday weekend.
The town recorded 161 new cases in the week to 28 August, more than double the previous week, according to NHS Digital data. The increase meant Bolton’s infection rate rose to 56.4 cases per 100,000 people, the joint highest in England alongside Oldham.
Yasmin Qureshi, the Labour MP for Bolton South East, said: “A lot of people want Bolton out of the restrictions but the facts and figures show a different picture. I would support the fact that they should continue but the question is for how long? It’s something that needs to be continuously reviewed.”
The 11th hour decision to keep the restrictions in place throws further uncertainty on plans in nearby areas, where the infection rate has also risen since Hancock’s announcement.
Measures are due to be lifted on Wednesday in the Greater Manchester borough of Trafford, where the infection rate rose over the weekend to more than three times the national average, at 35 cases per 100,000 people.
The borough now has a higher infection rate than Salford and Bury, where the restrictions will remain in place.
Hancock had been warned by Trafford council, its director of public health and its two Labour MPs that it was too early to ease measures covering its 235,000 residents. However, they were overruled by the health secretary. The influential Tory MP Graham Brady, whose constituency includes part of Trafford, had been pushing for the area to be removed from the restrictions.
Andrew Western, the Labour leader of Trafford council, said on Tuesday that he and Andy Burnham, the Greater Manchester mayor, were writing to the government to seek urgent clarity over the proposals.
Source: The Guardian