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Oldham could be next in line for full local lockdown amid sudden spike in new coronavirus cases 

Oldham could face a full lockdown ‘within days’ after Covid-19 cases doubled in a week despite tighter restrictions.

The council in the area said 255 new cases were diagnosed in the week ending August 8 compared with 137 cases the week before.  

Katrina Stephens, director of public health for Oldham Council, said officials were discussing the closure of bars, restaurants and gyms following a ‘sudden increase’ in the infection rate.

Most cases in the past four weeks have been diagnosed in people in their 20s and 30s, as concern grows for younger people having parties. 

Arooj Shah, deputy leader of Oldham Council, said people were ‘fatigued and fed up’ with the existing rules that came into play two weeks ago, but that they must continue.

The town’s 235,000 residents were told two weeks ago that they must not let any visitors into their home and to keep two metres apart from friends and family when seeing them outside.

It came after the Greater Manchester town soared to the top of the list for the highest infection rate in England on July 29, at 50.5 cases per 100,000.

But now, Oldham’s infection rate has more than doubled to 107.5 – as high as it was at the peak of Britain’s epidemic in April – when the week prior to this, the rate was 57.8 per 100,000. 

For comparison, Leicester had 135 per 100,000 people when it became the first, and only, location in England to go under a full local lockdown on June 30. 

Pendle in Lancashire is also heading towards a potential lockdown because it has ‘the highest number of positive cases in in the country’, according to the council.

Leaders have pleaded with locals – particularly young people – to stop socialising in households. 

Oldham Council said despite additional measures were put in place in the borough two weeks ago, since then, the number of positive cases has continued to increase. 

The infection rate was at 50.5 in the week ending July 25, just days before residents were urged to avoid home visits. 

Infections appeared to level off following the first spike. But there has been a second ‘sudden increase’ in recent days, taking the infection rate to 107.5, the council said.  

Ms Stephens said the new Covid-19 cases were ‘absolutely something we’re concerned about’, The Guardian reports. 

The council is in discussions with central government about a full lockdown which could take place within ‘days rather than weeks’ unless people adhere to the measures.

This could mean the closure of local services and businesses such as gyms and leisure centres, libraries, restaurants, bars and non-essential shops, which are only just beginning to recover after the nationwide lockdown.

Ms Stephens said the closure of pubs, restaurants and leisure centres required national powers to enforce and said: ‘Those discussions are taking place to start preparing for that, should it be needed.

‘However, we are not at that point yet and if people take these actions we really, really hope that will bring down the rate and that won’t be needed.’   

Ms Shah, deputy leader of Oldham Council, previously said two-thirds of the new cases at the end of July were mostly among Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities.

Of all 516 cases in the past four weeks, 296 have been among Asian and British Asian groups, data shows.

But the 255 new cases this week have been ‘in all areas, in all age groups, and in all communities’, Ms Shah said.

In the past four weeks up until August 7, there has been a spike in coronavirus cases among people in their 20s and 30s, official data shows.

The most cases (66) have been in women in their 20s, followed by men in the same age group (52).

Women in their 20s also account for those most cases overall during the pandemic (235). It is not clear if this is because they are catching the coronavirus more or because they are most likely to come forward for a test.

By comparison, 36 cases have been diagnosed in women over the age of 60 in the past four weeks, and 23 in men over 60. 

The official data from the council comes just days after cops received 100 calls about people breaking rules to host parties over the weekend.

There has been concern in parts of Manchester about young people catching the coronavirus in pubs and other social venues, carrying the disease unknowingly and spreading it to family members. 

Some residents of Oldham say the tighter restrictions have not had an affect and people are still doing what they please.

Hazel Banks, who lives near Alexandra Park, one of the worst affected areas in Oldham, told Manchester Evening News: ‘People aren’t obeying lockdown.

‘Everyday since the start, people have been ignoring it.

‘We see it at our neighbour’s. Every day 10 or 20 people are going in and out of one house.

‘They’ve been having parties and barbecues all the way through.’

Councillor Ms Shah said people were ‘fatigued, fed up, scared, angry and confused’ but reiterated the importance of following the guidance. 

‘We are all at risk of this terrible virus and it is our responsibility to protect ourselves, our friends and wider society by obeying this tougher guidance and acting responsibly,’ she said.

‘We know people in Oldham have, on the whole, been behaving responsibly and abiding by the coronavirus restrictions.

‘But coronavirus has not gone away – and rates are now rising. To avoid a second lockdown, there is no time to lose.

‘We need everyone to act now and make changes to the way they live, to prevent strict lockdown restrictions being implemented in the coming days or weeks.’  

Greater Manchester as a whole has been under stricter measures since the end of July, alongside East Lancashire and West Yorkshire, because cases have risen too high.

Pendle in East Lancashire has also seen infection rates rising despite additional measures stopping people from meeting others at home or in indoor venues.

The council said in a statement: ‘Cases are continuing to rise in Pendle, in particular in Nelson and Brierfield, and everyone is being urged to do all they can to stop the virus spreading further.

‘Pendle currently has the highest rate of testing in the North West and the highest number of positive cases in in the country.’ 

The council has urged everyone to have a test, even if they were not showing any symptoms.

Council leader Mohammed Iqbal said: ‘Coronavirus is spreading between households and within households so it’s really important that everyone follows these local measures. 

‘If we don’t, we’ll be heading for much stricter measures so please do all you can now to stop the virus spreading further. 

‘Stick to your household bubbles and do not have visitors to your home or visit people at their home.’ 

Councillor Nadeem Ahmed said: ‘We understand it’s hard for young people who may feel isolated from their friends. 

‘We’re appealing to you to follow these measures for a while longer so that the virus isn’t passed on to other members of your household who may be more vulnerable than you.’ 

Meanwhile, in Trafford, one of the wealthiest of the 10 boroughs in Greater Manchester, new confirmed coronavirus cases have halved suggesting the measures there are working. 

Some 46 new cases recorded between July 30 and August 6 compared to 85 the week prior, when it was among the one of the worst-hit local authorities in the country.

It comes after the director of public health, Eleanor Roaf, warned of a ‘complacent white middle class’ after she revealed 80 per cent of new Covid-19 cases had been among white people.  

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