PRIME Minister Boris Johnson says that Bolton will not be going into a local lockdown from Monday.

Mr Johnson has insisted that the new variant has not led to any "unmanageable pressures on the NHS, even in Bolton".

He told a Downing Street press conference that shops and businesses will be allowed to reopen as planned on Monday.

Mr Johnson said there would be "targeted activity" in Bolton and Blackburn to reinforce new rapid response team efforts, which has seen medics go door to door in BL3 to offer vaccinations and a Covid bus stationed in the hardest-hit area for the new Indian variant of coronavirus.

Mr Johnson said: "There is no evidence of increased cases translating to unmanageable pressures on the NHS, even in Bolton.

"Deaths and hospitalisations are at their lowest levels since last summer and I do not believe we need to delay our road map. So we will proceed with the plan to go to step three.

"But this new variant could pose a disruption to our progress and we will do whatever it takes to keep the public safe. I urge everyone to exert the greatest caution.

"To those living in Bolton and Blackburn, I’m very sorry once again, that you are suffering from this virus and I know how hard it has been for you.

"You have been in a form of national or local lockdown for longer than almost anywhere else.

"But now it is more vital than ever that you play your part in stopping the spread.
"We won’t be preventing businesses from re-opening on Monday but we will be asking you to do your bit.

"Take the vaccine, take your free twice-weekly tests and if you do test positive, you must self-isolate and we will provide financial support to those on low incomes to help them do so."

Earlier council leader Cllr David Greenhalgh said the authority had been in discussions with the Government about the introduction of “surge” vaccinations in the area where there has been a high number of cases of the Indian variant.

He also pledged financial support for anyone who tested positive and had to self-isolate as a result.

David Greenhalgh told BBC Radio 4’s The World at One: “This is an issue of capacity but we have had very, very constructive talks and certainly all the soundings are is that they are looking to progress that as soon as possible.

“The vast majority of our cases are in their teens, 20s and 30s at the moment.

“If we can get vaccinations to (those aged) 16-plus, which are licensed by Pfizer, then it will make a total transformation of transmission as it moves forward.

“I think realistically that would start in targeted areas where we see the predominance (of the virus) currently.”

Earlier Chris Green, MP for Bolton West, told talkRADIO: "I think as a politician you have to look at everything in and around you and I don't know what these experts are really doing.

"Are they ignoring everything else in society, children's education, businesses opening up, because in Bolton businesses are preparing for next week.

"If we have a lockdown, all of the work they've put into it, all the staff coming back into work, all the new produce they've brought in that would have to be dumped. That's a huge problem.

"How narrowly are they looking at this. I would think the priority would be when we've got about five million people waiting for hospital treatment, about 400,000 people who have waited over a year you can make the argument the other way around.

"We should get rid of all restrictions now to enable people to get that vital hospital treatment, that life saving treatment for cancer, heart disease, that's the priority."

Cllr Andy Morgan, Bolton Council cabinet member for adult social services, backs offering the vaccine to over-16s to stop the spread of the virus.

He said: “I think we need to put the brakes on a bit, this rise in cases is not as severe as previous times, when nobody was vaccinated as well.

“It would be devastating to go into another lockdown. Restaurants and pubs are all gearing up to open again so going into another sort of local lockdown would be awful. The point of a lockdown is to protect the NHS, which is not being overrun anymore.”