BOLTON residents are being urged to work together to contain coronavirus and protect themselves and loved ones this Christmas — as lockdown measures and restrictions come into force in parts of Europe and Ireland.

The health service in Bolton is already facing challenges from winter pressures with the emergence of seasonal illnesses showing much earlier in the year, such as respiratory illnesses in children and the vomiting bug norovirus.

Speaking exclusively with The Bolton News, public health bosses said that easy-to-follow precautions would ensure that people have safe and merry Christmas.

These include wearing face masks in crowded spaces, using LFT tests regularly and staying at home when ill to avoid transmitting seasonal viruses.

Their message comes as parts of Europe impose restrictions and, closer to home with Ireland and Northern Ireland have also implemented measures.

Measures implemented in the Republic of Ireland include a midnight curfew for hospitality venues, such as pubs, restaurants and nightclubs, as well as urging people to work from home.

Bolton Council Leader, Martyn Cox said: “We want to families safe and businesses open throughout the winter period. Covid has not gone away and there is the dangerous prospect of the health service coming under extreme pressure.”

Bolton has previously pulled together after it saw cases surge last year, and was subject to additional restrictions to contain the virus, which impacted Bolton’s economy.

And although there are no signs of restrictions being imposed locally or nationally, public health bosses are urging people to stay safe during the festive season.

Bolton Council’s Director of Public Health, Dr Helen Lowey, said: “We all want to be able to visit our family and friends this winter.

“Covid has not gone away, but we can all take precautions to protect our families and keep businesses open.

“Getting vaccinated massively reduces your chances of getting the virus, passing it on, and becoming seriously unwell with Covid.

“If you are feeling unwell, work from home if possible.

“It’s also important to make sure that you have good ventilation in your home when you are having guests over.

“By opening the window, even for an hour or two, you can limit the spread of the virus.

“In enclosed and crowded spaces, such as on public transport, it’s a good idea to wear a face covering to protect others around you.

“Lastly, if you have symptoms, get tested and stay at home until you have received your result.”

The Covid infection rate in Bolton currently stands at 323.3 cases per 100,000 people.

The borough’s case rate remains just below the national average, which lies at 376.4 cases per 100,000 people.

Current pressures on the health service are said to be “manageable but challenging,” according to Dr Helen Lowey.

Dr Lowey added: “There has been an uptick in cases over the past few days.

“We have seen the greatest rise in school age children and those at college.

“This can be helped by wearing a face covering, washing hands regularly and opening windows when indoors.

Executive Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, Cllr Susan Baines, said: “The council, Bolton CCG, Bolton hospital and CVS have all been working incredibly hard together behind the scenes hard as one big team.

“The vaccination sites across the borough have been running smoothly thanks to all the volunteers and health care workers.”

The council launched a campaign last week called ‘Covid’s Still Here’ to remind residents that the threat of the virus has not yet gone away.

Frequent handwashing, mask wearing and opening windows are all listed as ways people can protect themselves and others this winter.