TOWN hall chiefs have branded the government's testing system "unacceptable" and have pleaded for more help - as Bolton's infection rate hits a new record high.

A sudden increase in coronavirus cases in Bolton has seen the local infection rate jump to nearly 200 per 100,000.

In a direct message to Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government, Bolton's Tory-led council boss David Greenhalgh said: "We will work with you to get these rates down, but we need you to listen to our local concerns."

Council chiefs are also asking for exceptions to be added to the town's current strict measures banning households from meeting up - to allow workers to get help with childcare. 

They called on the government to address three key measures:

  • availability of tests
  • additional support for local businesses
  • expanding the definition of so-called support bubbles

Cllr Greenhalgh added: “We need Bolton to be prioritised with extra testing capacity. Two new test centres have opened in the borough with another to open in the next day or so, but we are seeing overwhelming demand for appointments, and residents consistently unable to access that extra capacity through the nationally run booking scheme.

“This is not acceptable, and we are asking the government to give us additional tests through the national portal for our symptomatic residents.

“We are also asking the government to look at expanding the definition of bubbles for childcare. Households who don’t live together or who are not in a social bubble, cannot meet under the Bolton restrictions. This is also putting a strain on many workers who rely on family for childcare, particularly around school pick ups.

“We are proposing for the definition of bubbles in the town to include another dedicated family who can provide this childcare support.

“The Treasury has announced that businesses which have had to close will be able to claim £1500 grant every three weeks and smaller firms can claim £1000, and this is welcome, but we are asking government to re-consider the level of support as under the previous furlough arrangements of 80%.

“We are also lobbying on behalf of after school clubs, play centres, the beauty industry and other businesses who continue to be adversely hit by restrictions.

“We are doing all we can within the resources that are available. The infection rate in the borough is now the highest it has been in the last six months and we are in this for the long haul.

“We need that support from the government, we will work with you to get these rates down, but we need you to listen to our local concerns.

“We will be having dialogue with the government throughout this week.”