Tougher coronavirus restrictions are being introduced in Oldham to try and prevent a local lockdown after the borough saw a spike of more than 100 cases in a week.
The number of positive Covid-19 cases has increased ‘dramatically’ in the last seven days, according to the council.
Vulnerable and elderly people who have been shielding are now being asked to continue to do so for another two weeks – from Friday (July 31).
Starting today, residents are being told they cannot have ‘social visitors’ to their home and must keep two metres apart from friends and family when seeing them outside.
The town hall says a ‘significant proportion’ of recent cases involve multiple people testing positive in a single household.
Bosses say that shows household spread is a ‘real issue’ – especially in cases in which large families live together in one home.
The tougher guidelines are aimed at avoiding a full government-mandated local lockdown in the borough, as has taken place in Leicester.
It comes after 119 new cases of the virus were recorded in Oldham in the seven days to July 25 – more than a fourfold increase from the previous week, ending July 17, which saw 26 positive cases.
It means Oldham now has a rate of infection of 50.2 positive tests per 100,000 people, compared to just 10.2 the week before.
Just four days ago, the government had dropped the borough from its watch list of areas of concern due to a fall in the infection rate.
Deputy council leader and cabinet member for Covid-19 recovery Arooj Shah said the best way to avoid infection is limiting contact with others and staying home ‘wherever you can’, including working from home where possible.
“Limit contact with other people and respect social distancing where you do go out, keeping at least two metres from those not in your household and avoid shaking hands or hugging,” she added.
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“Where meeting outside you should meet in groups of no more than six people from different households. Gatherings larger than six should only take place if everyone is exclusively from two households or support bubbles.
“You should be doing everything possible to avoid taking part in gatherings of more than 30 people.
“It is against the law for gatherings of more than 30 people to take place in private homes, including gardens and other outdoor spaces, and for a range of other events, including weddings, civil partnership ceremonies and services, community activities and support groups the government advice is the same.”
People are also being urged to wear a mask in situations where they cannot guarantee being able to stay two metres apart, such as in shops and on public transport.
“We know that people across Oldham desperately want to see their friends and family, and get back to normal,” Councillor Shah added.
“But these restrictions are essential if we are to stop the spread of coronavirus and prevent a strict local lockdown being put in place, as we have seen elsewhere in the country.”
While the tougher restrictions are in place, care homes will also not relax restrictions on visiting to protect older and vulnerable people.
It was announced earlier this month that Oldham had been chosen as one of four pilot sites in the country testing people who do not have symptoms of Covid-19, especially people working in ‘high-contact occupations’ such as taxi drivers, hairdressers and food outlet workers.
“We therefore urging anyone who shows symptoms that may be coronavirus to book a test online.
“Where people test positive or have symptoms, or where people have been in contact with someone who has tested positive, they must ensure they follow the guidance on self isolation.
“If we all do our bit and stick to the restrictions now, we can help stop the spread of coronavirus, and protect ourselves and our loved ones.”
If someone tests positive they should self-isolate for seven days and members of their family and support bubble, as well as other people they have been in contact with should self-isolate for 14 days.
This applies even if they have been tested and received a negative result, as it can take up to 14 days for symptoms to appear.
A helpline is available to support those self-isolating with access to food, medicine, financial support and loneliness, available Monday to Friday, from 9am to 5pm.