BOLTON’s public health director Dr Helen Lowey has praised the will of the people in helping tackle the town’s coronavirus infection rate ­— but stressed people could not afford to be complacent now.

Dr Lowey said that figures were going in the right direction, but people still had to exercise caution.

It was two months ago when three cases of the Delta variant of Covid was identified in the town.

Also known as the Indian variant, the virus spread through Bolton, with the town recording the highest number of Covid cases in the country. It now has the seventh highest infection rate in the country.

The Bolton News:

Bolton continues to have the highest coronavirus infection rate in Greater Manchester, but the town seems to turned the curve ­— with national public health chiefs now looking at how the model can be replicated in other places where rates are rising.

“We know that Covid is here and we are not going to stop what we are doing in Bolton,” said Dr Lowey, “What we know from the past 16 months of this pandemic is that we have to take a very cautious approach while rates are coming down, we want them to continue to come down and we will keep pushing the testing, tracing and isolation, vaccination message.

“And we will continue supporting people to have that test as well and breaking down barriers so people can continue to have that test.”

She said “testing, contact tracing, isolation and vaccination” is behind Bolton’s success.

“We are continuing with that in Bolton and that we will do for the foreseeable future until our are rates have come right down, and not just in Bolton but across the whole county as well,” said Dr Lowey.

The Bolton News:

(Dr Helen Lowey with Dr Jenny Harries. Picture by Julie Lomax)

Testing is key to breaking the chains of the virus, particularly for those who show no symptoms.

Leading public health chiefs visited the town last week to see how it was tackling infection rates, including Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency.

The Bolton News:

(Visit to Bolton by Dr Jenny Harries, Picture by Julie Lomax)

Dr Lowey said: “It is just overwhelming how it has been so driven and led by our communities, it has been a privilege to work here people have really come together and never in my career have I seen the response we have had here in Bolton.

"I just think that has been incredible. Yes we are doing testing, contact tracing isolation vaccinations but actually the community have been so involved in this and the response has just been magnificent."

Coronavirus infection rates are beginning to fall in Bolton's school age population, but said Dr Lowey: "They are not reducing to the extent we want in our 19 to 25-years ­— so we are keeping a close eye on that."

Leading public health chiefs visited the town last week to see how it was tackling infection rates.

Dr Jenny Harries, Chief Executive of the UK Health Security Agency, said: "The vaccine will not stop an acute outbreak, it takes two or three weeks for the vaccine to kick in and then you need a gap and another vaccine dose. Two doses in the long term will help

"Actually what has really helped in Bolton is people coming forward getting tested so you can see where the cases are and support people to break those chains of transmission and that makes everyone safer across the whole community."

Dr Lowey said that there was support for people who after testing positive for the virus.

She said: "There is support out there and I think it is important to recognise that it is not just about the financial support either. It is about what do you do when you isolate and the mental health support and what to people do when they do isolate. We have also got to remember the majority of people do isolate they want to but they do obviously have worries.

"So part of the programme of work we have done is to support people who are having to self-isolate as well. Not just financially, yes that is important, but also other support such as food shopping, those who care for people, dog walking and so on."

The Bolton News:

Bolton and the North West has been hit particularly bad throughout the pandemic and said Dr Lowey this was an issue which would have to be looked at in the longer term.

She explained: "We do have levels of deprivation here in Bolton and across the North West.

"We are a town which has a lot of manufacturing companies where people have to go into work, they are unable to work from home because of the nature of the job.

"It's about how do we work with businesses and communities to support that.

"We know that people live in houses with multiple generations and small houses as well where it is difficult to separate yourself out. It is about addressing the issues of inequalities we have here in Bolton, acknowledging them, and what is our response and how to do we work together to reduce inequalities and improve outcomes for people.

"The short term immediate response to really get the rates down and also in the longer term what we can do across Bolton across all our partners and with our community."