A local MP says that conspiracy theories around coronavirus have contributed to Bolton becoming the worst-affected area in England.
The Greater Manchester borough is under tighter restrictions following a surge in positive test results in recent weeks, with local hospitality operating a takeaway-only service and most other venues required to close between 10pm and 5am.
Casinos, skating rinks and bowling alleys are banned from trading.
Residents are also forbidden from meeting anyone outside their support bubble, inside or outside.
But despite the new restrictions, Bolton COVID cases have continued to climb, and Labour MP for Bolton South East Yasmin Qureshi has expressed concern that people are ignoring the rules as they’re questioning the legitimacy of the virus.
“There is a lot of confusion about the virus in the area,” she said.
“There are a lot of people now who do not believe it is true.”
A hashtag that rejects government rules and regulations, #thinkingforyourself, is gaining momentum and spreading across local forums and social media.
Qureshi added: “They genuinely believe it’s some kind of conspiracy.
“A lot of them don’t understand the rules either and so there are many who just aren’t following them – they think it is a way of controlling them somehow.
“It is very dangerous.”
Bolton’s COVID rate is 187.8 cases per 100,000 people, with hospital admittances also increasing.
According to health experts, males in their 40s and 50s are among those worst affected.
Alongside Bolton, the nine surrounding Greater Manchester boroughs are on ‘red alert’ due to a spike in cases in the North West.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has already confirmed the presence of a second wave in the UK, with as many as 11 million people in Britain now living under tighter restrictions.
Chief medical personnel Chris Whitty and Patrick Valance are due to give a press conference later today to update the public on the situation, with concerns that the infection rate is “heading in the wrong direction.”