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    • Bolton was due to have its local lockdown restrictions eased from tomorrow 
    • However, infections have soared in the past week from 18.4 per 100,000 to 56.4 
    • Now, council leader David Greenhalgh has called for restrictions to stay in place

    Council leaders in Bolton have asked the Government to scrap plans to ease coronavirus restrictions from tomorrow after an ‘unforeseen’ spike in cases.

    Social gatherings between two homes were due to resume for the first time in weeks from Wednesday as restrictions were eased in Bolton and other parts of northern England. 

    However, a sharp increase in the local infection rate over the past week has now led to a U-turn from the council.

    The request was made following an emergency meeting between officials as the rate of new Covid-19 cases more than tripled from 18.4 per 100,000 people to 56.4.

    Analysis showed that new cases in Bolton were spread across the borough and not limited to a single area, community, or place of work, said the council.

    Infections between different households appear to be the main cause of the spike with people aged 18-49 representing the overwhelming majority of new cases, it added.

    Conservative leader of Bolton Council, Councillor David Greenhalgh, said: ‘It is with a heavy heart that the cabinet and officer team have come to this decision and this will be incredibly disappointing for both residents and business owners.

    ‘We urged the Government to lift Bolton out of the additional restrictions at a time when infection rates were low.

    ‘This was the right decision at the time.

    ‘However, there has been a sudden and unforeseeable rise in the number of coronavirus cases in Bolton.

    ‘We have always been led by the data, which means we have no choice but to act quickly to keep everyone safe.’

    Any reversal in the plans would also mean that certain businesses, including those offering close contact services, will not reopen as planned.

    Bolton was due to join Stockport, Trafford, Burnley, Hyndburn and parts of Bradford, Calderdale and Kirklees in falling into line with restrictions currently in place in most of England.

    Council leaders in Trafford had recommended that restrictions be maintained to wait for more evidence of a sustained downward trend in positive cases but were overruled by the Government.

    Latest figures show the seven-day infection rate in Trafford is up from 19.0 to 35.8, with 85 new cases recorded, the highest rate for Trafford since the end of July when the additional restrictions were imposed.

    Labour council leader Andrew Western has written to Health Secretary Matt Hancock to ‘urgently request clarity’ on the Government’s position on Trafford.

    In his letter, Mr Western said: ‘Sadly I must highlight to you that Trafford has now returned to the Government’s own amber zone in terms of cases of 100,000 population, and now has a significantly higher rate of cases than some other Greater Manchester boroughs who are not due to see restrictions lifted tomorrow.

    ‘In short, this decision has caused chaos and confusion that not only impacts potentially on the health of my residents but on the likelihood of compliance in neighbouring boroughs that now have a lower infection rate than Trafford.

    ‘The proposed arrangements now make little sense.

    ‘The system has been undermined by the Government’s decision-making processes.’

    He added he was ‘very disappointed’ that its representations to Government last week were ‘completely ignored’ along with ‘two of our three local MPs, two of our three opposition group leaders and our director of public health’.

    Mr Western said it ‘only serves to exacerbate fears that national government never intended to meaningfully consider such views but rather to only have regard for the views of Conservative MPs in the areas affected’.

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