Oldham council enlists celebrities to tackle confusing Covid messaging

Oldham council enlists Pakistan’s cricket captain and ‘Jay’ from the Inbetweeners to tackle ‘confusing’ Covid messaging ahead of town’s return to lockdown on Sunday

  • People in Oldham, Pendle and Blackburn given new covid restrictions on Sunday
  • But local officials say rules have caused ‘confusion’ and more clarity is needed
  • Oldam council leader Sean Fielding has recruited Pakistani cricket captain Azhar Ali and Jay from Inbetweeners to help

Council officials in Oldham are enlisting the help of celebrities to get the new coronavirus restriction messages across as the town goes back into lockdown.

From midnight on Saturday, people in the Greater Manchester town, as well as Pendle and Blackburn in Lancashire, have been told not to socialise with anyone outside their household.

New data shows that coronavirus cases in Oldham had reached 103.1 per 100,000 people during the week ending 13 August. 

But the new restrictions have caused ‘confusion’ and more clarity is needed, according to local leaders. 

Council officials in Oldham are enlisting the help of celebrities to get the new coronavirus restriction messages across as the town goes back into lockdown

Oldham Council leader Sean Fielding told BBC Breakfast that he had recruited Azhar Ali, the Pakistani cricket captain, and James Buckley, who played Jay in TV series The Inbetweeners, to spread messaging on the new restrictions.

He added: ‘We are also doing some really targeted intervention in our most affected communities, and that includes things like door-to-door testing, using community leaders to get messages over that so far the corporate council communications channels have not been as successful as we would like.

‘And also being quite creative in terms of how we communicate those messages, we’ve enlisted support of the Pakistani cricket captain (Azhar Ali) who has recorded a video for us to get the message out to communities that might listen to him rather than listen to me.


Oldham Council leader Sean Fielding told BBC Breakfast that he had recruited Azhar Ali, the Pakistani cricket captain, and James Buckley, who played Jay in TV series The Inbetweeners, to spread messaging on the new restrictions

‘We have used the actor that played Jay in the Inbetweeners (James Buckley) for example, so we have been really creative in using assets within our communities and also celebrities or whatever it might be that might be more effective in telling people the restrictions and why it’s so important that they follow them.’

Under the new rules, public transport in the north west towns should only be used if it is essential and the number of people attending weddings, civil partnerships and funerals should be limited to no more than 20, made up of household members and close family only, the department said.

The Government said a rise in people testing positive for coronavirus in the area was due to ‘social mixing’, particularly among 20 to 39-year-olds.

But leaders in the region have complained the restrictions have been imposed without ‘detailed guidance’ and have caused confusion.

The Office for National Statistics estimates 2,400 people are contracting the disease every day, down 37 per cent from the 3,800 the previous week

The Labour leader of Pendle Council Mohammed Iqbal told the BBC’s Today programme on Saturday the restrictions, which the council argued against, had been ‘imposed’ to ‘punish people who have been testing flat out’.

He added: ‘The Government has announced these tightening restrictions for local people in my area, yet they have not issued any detailed guidance as to how it will operate, who will police it.

‘So local people are actually more confused than they were on Thursday evening.’ 

Greater Manchester Police also took to social media on Saturday to tell people not to call 999 or 101 for clarification about Covid-19 measures.

It tweeted: ‘Please do not call 101 or 999 for clarification on COVID-19 regulations.’

The Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) estimates the R value – the average number of people each coronavirus patient infects – is now between 0.9 and 1.1, up from last week’s prediction that it was hovering around 0.8 and 1.0

What are the new rules in Oldham, Pendle and Blackburn?

As of midnight tonight, residents in Oldham, Pendle and Blackburn will not be allowed to socialise with anyone from outside of their household, whether indoors or outdoors. 

Ministers are also advising against using public transport unless it is for essential travel. 

The numbers of people who can attend weddings, civil partnerships and funerals is being limited to household members and close family and no more than 20 people. 

Local restaurants are being encouraged not to allow walk-ins and to only seat people who have made a reservation. 

People are still allowed to go shopping, go to work and attend child-care settings.   

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