Coronavirus: Oldham local lockdown ‘would be a disaster’, council leader says

Putting Oldham into a coronavirus local lockdown would be a “disaster”, the leader of the local council has told Sky News.

Sean Fielding said the area was so “completely and utterly interwoven” with other parts of Manchester that putting firmer restrictions on the borough would be “really impractical”.

Oldham currently has the highest two-week COVID-19 case rate across England, Scotland and Wales.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock earlier did not rule out extending a local lockdown to the area.

But Mr Fielding said while infections are rising, hospital admissions and deaths are not.

The people catching coronavirus are only suffering “quite a mild illness” and “spreading it internally within their households”, he added.

If businesses like pubs had to shut then patrons will simply go to drink elsewhere and spread the virus, he added.

Several areas across Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire, East Lancashire and Leicester have already faced tougher restrictions for more than two weeks to try and contain the spread of coronavirus.

At its last review point on Friday, the government raised particular concern over Oldham.

“Progress will be assessed throughout the weekend and early next week,” an announcement at the time said, fueling fears the borough was on the cup of intervention by ministers.

Mr Fielding pushed strongly against that course.

Oldham council leader Sean Fielding

He told Sky News on Wednesday: “All the businesses that have made preparations to make themselves COVID-secure would now be being asked to close down again.

“And of course there’s no certainty over whether there will be any support or compensation offered to those businesses if they were force to closed.

“I anticipate that if they were, then sadly we would see many of them not open again – and in Oldham’s already fragile economy, that would be a disaster.”

He denied putting the economy over public health, adding: “I don’t believe that a local lockdown is one of the solutions we should be pursuing.”

Ministers handed powers to councils to declare local lockdowns – but can still impose them if deemed necessary.

Mr Hancock did not rule out doing so on Wednesday.

He told the BBC: “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.”

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