Covid: Bolton lockdown 'not ruled out' - Hancock

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Vaccine queue in BoltonImage source, Reuters
Image caption,
Matt Hancock said testing and vaccinations would help "get on top" of the Indian variant

A local lockdown in Bolton has not been ruled out to help protect people from the spread of the Indian coronavirus variant, Matt Hancock has said.

The health secretary said the "vast majority" of people in the town who are in hospital with the new variant had not taken up the offer of a vaccine.

He said the government was prepared to implement restrictions if necessary.

Mr Hancock said the plan was to "pile in testing and vaccinations to try to get on top of this".

He said five people who had received a single jab were in hospital with the Indian variant in Bolton.

One patient had received both doses - but they are "very frail".

Asked if anyone has died with the Indian variant after receiving two jabs, Mr Hancock said: "Not that we're aware of".

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
The NHS is sending a mobile vaccine bus into parts of Bolton with high infections

Speaking on Sky's Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme, he added: "We've put in a huge amount of testing. We've reinforced that with army personnel as well, and we're expanding the vaccination programme - especially for those second jabs which are the best protection against ending up in hospital."

On the prospect of further action, he said: "At the moment we're taking the approach that worked in south London - which is this massive surge testing - but of course we don't rule out further action.

"Given though Bolton has been in some form of a lockdown for a year, it's not a step we want to take but of course we might have to take it and we will if it's necessary to protect people."

Bolton in Greater Manchester has seen a sharp spike in infections since mid-April, Public Health England said.

In the town, the B.1.617.2 variant now makes up the majority of new coronavirus cases.

Leader of Bolton Council David Greenhalgh urged people to get the vaccine.

"We've been knocking on doors," he said.

Image caption,
Residents in Bolton lined up outside the mobile vaccination centre

"You can take a horse to water but you can't always make it drink but we are doing everything we can through all our partnerships, through our faith leaders and everyone, to get the message out there: get a vaccine, it protects us all.

"If you've got the offer, the offer is going to be there... please take up that vaccine," the Conservative councillor added.

Attention has been focused on just a handful of neighbourhoods to the south of the town centre - Rumworth, Deane and Great Lever.

About half of new cases detected in Bolton over the past week have come from those three areas alone.

There is currently no evidence it causes more severe disease or can evade Covid vaccines in any way - the single biggest concern of scientists.