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19 August 2020, 10:39
Is Oldham going into lockdown? Health Secretary Matt Hancock has refused to rule out a local lockdown in the area.
There are fears that Oldham could be heading for a Leicester-style lockdown in a matter of days, with its Council leader warning that such a move could be 'catastrophic'.
Ministers are reportedly set to decide tomorrow (Thursday 20 August) whether to impose lockdown measures in the area, following the news that the town has the highest rate of coronavirus in England.
Oldham is home to 2350,000 people, and the number of new cases for every 100,000 have doubled to 107.5 per week in the past seven days, according to reports.
Council officials said that 255 new cases of coronavirus were diagnosed during the week ending 8 August, up from 137 cases the previous week.
Council leader Sean Fielding has warned that imposing lockdown could be 'catastrophic' for the local economy.
He told the Guardian: "Everything that is within our power we are doing, and there is some early evidence that is having an effect on the infection rate.
"But we do need more time to see if that has really played out. I do think that moving into a local lockdown would be really premature."
Mr Fielding added: "The impact of a local lockdown economically on Oldham would be catastrophic and we desperately want to avoid that."
Speaking about the potential for a local lockdown in an interview with the BBC, Matt Hancock said today (19 August): "Places like Oldham, where we are now seeing the number of cases rise, we have to take the same localised approach, working very closely with the local council, and make sure we get both the messages to the public and also the rules right in place and the resources, like the testing resources, to get a grip on it in all the areas where there is an outbreak, including Oldham."
The Health Secretary later said in another interview: "There is a big challenge in Oldham, the numbers are clear about that.
"Obviously that has had a huge impact on the people of Leicester, including businesses, and of course I regret that, in the way I regret a huge amount of the impact of what we have had to do to tackle the virus.“But we will do what is necessary and we will work very closely with the council, who have also got a really important part to play in this."
Oldham already has a ban on social visits to other households, along with a number of other areas in the North West of England - and local lockdown could see pubs, restaurants and other retail businesses ordered to close.
Leicester became the first local area in England to be put under local lockdown, with Health Secretary Matt Hancock announcing the news back in June.