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Coronavirus: Boris Johnson suggests local lockdowns are not being lifted because people are breaking rules

Luton’s ‘success’ was because ‘local people pulled together to follow the guidance’, prime minister says - implying residents of other areas have not

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Wednesday 30 September 2020 13:10 BST
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Boris Johnson suggests local lockdowns are not being lifted because people are breaking rules

Boris Johnson has suggested areas are failing to escape local lockdowns because people are breaking the rules.

Only Luton – of 48 areas – has escaped Covid-19 restrictions which have been imposed in recent weeks, the prime minister was told.

Mr Johnson said that “success” was because “local people pulled together to follow the guidance”, appearing to imply that residents of other areas had not.

In the Commons, Keir Starmer also suggested the rules were now too complex, despite supporting them in votes, pointing to Mr Johnson’s gaffe in failing to explain them himself.

The Labour leader quoted the Conservative leader of Bolton council, who has warned restrictions are “breeding resentment” because they are “too complex, too complicated”.

“If the prime minister doesn't understand the rules, and his own council leaders are complaining about mixed messages, how does the prime minister expect the rest of the country to understand and follow the rules?” he asked.

As local lockdowns are extended across the UK, with Merseyside expected to be next, Sir Keir warned Mr Johnson’s “whack-a-mole” strategy was failing.

In Bolton, hospitality was restricted to takeaway-only three weeks ago, after its infection rate rose to 118 cases per 100,000 people – but it now stands at 240 cases per 100,000.

Stockport and Wigan had managed to break free from their local lockdowns, but measures were reimposed on Friday after infections rebounded.

Even in Luton, despite Mr Johnson calling it “success”, cases have risen by a third in the last week, from 26 per 100,000 to 35.5 per 100,000.

“In recent months, 48 areas in England have gone into local restrictions, but only one has ever come out and stayed out – that is Luton. Why does the prime minister think that is?" Sir Keir asked.

The prime minister replied: “The reason, I think, for the success of Luton is that the local people pulled together to suppress the virus, to follow the guidance, and that is the way forward for the entire country.

“That is what we did before in March and April, and I have no doubt that that is what we're going to do again.”

Sir Keir added: “In towns like Bradford, Bury and Oldham, restrictions have now been in place for months. For many of those communities affected, things feel like they are getting worse, not better

“So I ask a question on their behalf: what is the prime minister's strategy for bringing these cases out of restrictions so they can see their families again?”.

Mr Johnson replied: "Nobody wants to impose restrictions of this kind whether in Bradford or anywhere else in the country and we work very closely with local authorities to ensure that we have the right mix of the approach that we adopt.

“But, frankly, when you have the virus going up in the way that it is now in some parts of the country, you have to take strong, local action.”

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