BOLTON has hardly been out of the news over the past months over its alarming covid infection rates ­— and today it was again under the national spotlight but this time for its work in containing the virus.

Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, was in Bolton to meet the Public Health Team and leader of Bolton Council, Cllr David Greenhalgh to discuss the town's covid response work in tackling the significant rise of Delta variant cases in the area.

While paying tribute to the work to reduce cases, which although still on a 'knife-edge' continue to fall, she said lessons had to be learned for the future after Bolton and the North West was hit disproportionately by the pandemic.

• Dr Jenny Harries, Chief Executive UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) visits Bolton. Pictures by Julie Lomax

• Dr Jenny Harries, Chief Executive UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) visits Bolton. Pictures by Julie Lomax

Dr Harries said: "Bolton has been doing some really fabulous stuff and to find out how they have managed to get the rates of the Delta variant down in this area and see if we can take some of that learning back to support other areas.

"The thing that really strikes me was just how well local services work together, that's a really important element.

"Even more importantly is just how many people in communities have contributed to that ­— how many have come forward to be tested and be vaccinated. It is a whole community effort."

She said that rates across the country were beginning to rise but the vaccination programme is preventing serious illness and hospitalisation.

Dr Harries said: "I do recognise Manchester and the North West particularly has been really badly affected through the pandemic.

"Sadly one of things we know where you have more deprived populations they have more underlying health conditions and are more likely to be impacted by infectious disease outbreak, that is true globally so I think we start there and that is an important lesson for the future for the UK as a whole."

She added "I think the other thing is that of course there is a lot of manufacturing centres or lots of work areas where people cannot work from home.

"In London for example people will empty from offices and perhaps transfer their jobs home and in Manchester and round the north some of the work areas do not enable people to work from home quite the same way so I think there are important lessons.

"Many people when they come out to work they are mixing socially and we cannot avoid that. Many businesses have worked really hard to ensure the workplaces are safe and we have to recognise that."

• Dr Jenny Harries, Chief Executive UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) visits Bolton. Pictures by Julie Lomax

• Dr Jenny Harries, Chief Executive UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) visits Bolton. Pictures by Julie Lomax

Cllr Greenhalgh said: "What I hope she will see is the strength of partnership working we have here, I think she will sense that, how this has succeeded here

"I hope she will see how the interventions have worked surge vaccinations and surge testing which is hugely important

"While that vaccine is holding out, while there is a success of the vaccine, while we continue to push for those to get the second doses, get more people vaccinated, I hope she will take that back and understand that give us more testing give us more vaccination and we will deliver those for your in our communities and we can do this without restrictions I think that is the important key message."

He believes that once the visiting delegation had seen Bolton's success, the powers that be would replicate the model in other areas.

"I genuinely believe once they have seen this is working they will be pulling out all the stops to get the vaccines out there," said Cllr Greenhalgh, "I think the surge testing at this point is hugely important ­— identify where it is, self-isolate and stop that community spread."

He said: "I am incredibly proud of Bolton.

"We don't want to be in the headlines for these reasons but I am immensely proud of the way Bolton has pulled together.

"The vast majority have followed the guidance, pulled together as partners the volunteering has been phenomenal.

"For us to all to come together across all the partnerships, all work together across all sectors, it has been such joined up working, we can all be proud and I am immensely proud."