Bolton could be hit by RIOTS if ministers try to impose new local lockdown to squash Indian variant, Matt Hancock warned


MATT Hancock has been warned there could be “unrest” in Bolton if he tries to impose another lockdown to contain the Indian variant.

The town’s Tory council leader David Greenhalgh said there are fears locals will take the streets in protest at any new move to shut pubs and shops.

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Surge vaccinations are being rolled out in Bolton to tackle the Indian variant

He is said to have personally warned the Health Secretary about the danger in a frosty phone call.

It comes after Whitehall sources warned areas where the new variant is rampant could be hit with the return of Tier 4 restrictions.

That would mean pubs, restaurants, and non-essential shops being forced to close and people ordered to stay at home.

Asked about the possibility of another lockdown, Mr Greenhalgh said: “I do think there is a danger of unrest.

“There is a great deal of resentment. Bolton was disproportionately affected really since July last year.

“Even when our rates were coming down we still remained in lockdown when other areas’ rates were higher than ours.

“The people of Bolton have a great spirit and they come together when times are difficult.

“But this would be a very, very difficult situation to manage if we went into a lockdown that we have personal experience of as a town which did not work.”

He added: “We’ve been there before and they don’t work – not in a dense conurbation like Greater Manchester.

What happened before, the spread increased because people travelled 50 yards across the county boundary to access hospitality they can’t in their own area.”

Bolton is facing an outbreak of Covid, mostly amongst young people

Matt Hancock has been warned a local lockdown could spark riots in Bolton

Mr Greenhalgh said he expects cases to carry on rising in the town for at least the next two weeks and that was “to be expected”.

But he said the vast majority of the spread is amongst the youngest sections of society – young children, teenagers, and those in their 20s.

And he added there hasn’t been an increase in hospitalisations and severe illness which is “hugely welcome”.

Ministers have sent extra testing and jabbing capacity into the town, with 6,000 extra vaccinations done this week alone.

Mr Greenhalgh expressed concern youngsters not at great risk themselves may pass Covid onto older relatives in multigenerational households.

He said 95-98% of the most vulnerable have already been vaccinated which is “phenomenal, but not if you’re in the 3 or 5%” unprotected.

His remarks came as leading scientist Neil Ferguson – known as Prof Lockdown – said there are hopes the Indian variant isn’t as contagious as feared.

The top epidemiologist said: “There’s a glimmer of hope from the recent data that whilst this variant does still appear to have a significant growth advantage, the magnitude of that advantage seems to have dropped a little.

“There’s a good deal of confidence that vaccines will protect against severe disease.

“The thing we’re slightly concerned about is whether there’s an impact on the ability of vaccines to prevent infection or mild disease and therefore prevent transmission in the community.”

And there were reports that No 10 is starting to shy away from the threat of imposing more local lockdowns.

A Govenrment source told the Mail “No one wants local lockdowns — I don’t think that is a realistic option.

“There would have to be a very strong case to go down that road again.

“The Indian variant would have to be severely more transmissible, you would need evidence the vaccine is not working and you would have to be seeing a big impact on hospitalisation.

“We do still need a bit more data, but that is not how it is looking at the moment.”