Covid: Bolton Indian variant surge leaves hospitality nervous

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image copyrightReuters
image captionBolton is seeing a surge in instances of the Indian variant of coronavirus

Hospitality businesses in a town experiencing a fresh spike in Covid cases have told of their concern as pubs and cafes prepare to open indoors.

Bolton has one of the highest instances of the Indian variant in the UK and is seeing a particularly sharp rise in cases among unvaccinated under-25s.

As lockdown rules prepare to ease on Monday, pubs and restaurants in the town are sounding a note of caution.

Some are worried about a return to the surges seen in the area last year.

Angela Baker, owner of Baker's cafe, said over the last week she was increasingly concerned about whether she will be prevented from reopening.

image copyrightAngela Baker
image captionAngela Baker said she was "concerned" about the reopening

"Bolton was shut down last year when rates were high," the 40-year-old said.

"It raises the question of how long are we going to be open for? It does worry me as I cannot protect my staff."

Alex McVey, owner of Odessa, said he was "very nervous" about the situation.

"It's sad. I can't believe it," he said.

image copyrightAlex McVey
image captionAlex McVey, who owns Odessa cafe, said he "couldn't believe" the surge in cases

"We can't plan anything and our staff, suppliers and customers all feel very uneasy about it.

"But we need to reopen, we need to keep going. I'm asking myself again - why Bolton?"

Jon Peek, the general manager of the Cross Guns Inn, said his team had "worked tirelessly to meet and exceed all the guidance".

Mr Peek said he would be reopening, albeit a little later, in June.

image copyrightJON PEEK
image captionJon Peek said his team had worked "tirelessly"

"We've adapted at every turn to ensure that all our guests can drink and dine in an environment that is safe and secure," he said.

"We can't wait to welcome people through our doors safely," he added.

This spike is related to international travel, particularly with people returning to Bolton from India.

The cases are now in the community and it seems to be located around the south and south-west parts of the town.

Interestingly, the cases are very much stacked in those under the age of 25.

There were 721 cases reported yesterday in those aged five to 25.

Part of this is because secondary school children are testing twice a week, but it is very much present in that younger age group.

The Greyhound pub's owner, who preferred not to be named, said the rise in cases was "so daunting".

"You keep on going but then it could change overnight and you've wasted all that money. I'm still planning to open, but I haven't planned as much as I did last year," he said.

"We are just going to have to run with it. It's so uncertain."

On Tuesday, Mayor Andy Burnham appealed to the government to allow everyone over the age of 16 in the region to get a vaccine.

Meanwhile, Bolton Council has urged everyone who is eligible to get the jab.

The authority also said more testing sites and a renewed push for vaccine take-up was being rolled-out over the weekend.

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