Westhoughton Community Network

group for and run by community groups in Westhoughton

Covid-19 (Coronavirus)

Big Impact on Community  6/4/22

The arrival of the Covid-19 in early 2020, concerns about health and wellbeing of vulnerable groups and Government advice on 'Social Distancing' meant that community groups were obliged to take action to limit exposure to the virus. As a result, with venues out of action, many groups and their activities had to be suspended. Most had to sit it out, others adapted upping phone and email contact, some using Zoom and Microsoft Teams for meetings. All measures and the uncertainty have had a big impact on community life, valuable social interactions and local sport. Thankfully, there is some light at the end of the tunnel as we enter an unwinding stage with activities beginning to resume as restrictions are eased. Concerns raised over the Omicron variant (November) have led to some measures returning.

Whilst the virus outbreak peaked in April last year, testing shows the virus is still around and putting pressure on health resources. Latest information: UK Covid-19 Summary Dashboard. NHS Covid-19 website has information on disease and actions to take. Social Distancing Guidelines (withdrawn 1/5/21). An Interactive Map allows searching at a local level (cases). Detailed local Covid information from NHS sources is available via Bolton JSNA.

Testing levels at one point well-exceeded 1 million a day (currently c.600k), which naturally leads to a high number of cases being found - a case being a positive test, not necessarily someone being ill - the numbers had been falling back and with normality resuming. Data has shown that individuals are being infected multiple times - this phenomenon seems more prevalent in the vaccinated. Furthermore the effectiveness of the vaccine is short-lived (vaccine has not been reformulated as the virus evolved). Fortunately for most the Omicron variant has been mild

To date (6/4/22) Bolton has seen 92,586 'cases', a rate of Bolton 32,120 per 100,000 (1,404last 7 days), with 977 deaths 'with Covid' on death certificate (338 per 100,000) - old age other or comorbidities likely to be a factor. Cases now include multiple infections. Concern has been raised about the suitability of the PCR test - traces of past non-viable infections being picked up and false positives due to high-cycle rate over-stating numbers. 3,718 patients have been treated in hospital (NHS Bolton) for Covid, although a significant number will have tested positive post-admission (nosocomial infections); a small percentage requiring mechanical ventilation. There are currently (6/4/22) 87 Covid patients in hospital, 1 in ICU. hospitalisations and deaths are low and manageable. As at 4/6/22 217,287 and 201,808 first and second dose vaccinations have been given, with 143,398 having had a booster. Despite concerns and risk of health issues [1 | 2], vaccinations of 12-15 year olds now underway. According to the Bolton JSNA the resident population of Bolton is approximately 285,372 (2018).

Lockdown Measures

'Lockdown' began when on 28th March 2020 PM Boris Johnson announced measures to slow speed of spread of virus and impact on NHS (3-week 'Flattening the Curve' strategy). 'Social Distancing' became the order of the day. Under the new rules, the nation could only go out for essential shopping trips, one form of exercise a day, any medical needs and to travel to and from essential work, working from home if possible… all non-essential shops to be closed. Elderly and vulnerable groups were contacted directly by letter and told stay at home: 'Shielding' advice (Govt | NHS). The 'Lockdown' was reviewed 16/4/20 and extended a further 3 weeks. The economy was effectively shut-down, and a furlough scheme was put in place to preserve jobs. As time passed and the impact lessened further staged loosening of 'Lockdown' was announced with small groups able to meet, more shops opening with social distancing measures in place - Latest Guidance. Three months on, from 4/7/20 pubs, restaurants, cinemas and museums were allowed to reopen in England; households of any size could meet, and hotels, campsites and hairdressers will be able to welcome back customers as long as social distancing and hygiene policies are observed. 1m+ became the new rule on social distancing. The requirement to wear Face-coverings (unless exempt) in supermarkets came into force 24/7/20. Additional 'Local Lockdown measures' were put in place (Greater Manchester) 31/7/20. Further measures announced in September ('Rule of Six', etc.). With Tiers (1-4) being reintroduced in November.

Greater Manchester including Bolton/Westhoughton entered a Lockdown on 4th January. Non-essential activities shut down (the closure of pubs continued), including schools (except for children of key-workers), libraries, etc. Local sport suspended again. All socialising discouraged. Communities rallied to support the isolated and vulnerable. From 8/3/21 restrictions began to be lifted as per the 'roadmap for easing lockdown restrictions', with schools open again but testing and other measures in place. Pubs re-opened (indoors) 17/5/21. The decision not to exit Lockdown from 21st June was taken following a surge in cases (Indian (Delta) variant).

The vaccine rollout began in December 2020, initially the old and vulnerable were targeted - two doses would be required. The mRNA gene-therapy treatments made available under EUA (Emergency Use Authorisation) with long terms trials and testing ongoing. In spite of concerns by some doctors and virology experts the rollout has continued and broadened, with not at risk groups being invited to get their jabs to protect others. Yellow Card data reporting some of the adverse effects (Summary). With vaccine effectiveness waning 'booster shots' are now being administered (16/9/21). Virus mutations have been a concern, however, generally as viruses mutate they tend to get more virulent but less harmful, in addition, our natural immunity learns how to deal with the virus.

On Monday 19th July 2021 restrictions (social distancing, mask-wearing, home-working, etc.) were formally lifted and life could begin to get back to normal. Travel (overseas holidays) however remains restricted. Community, sporting, and social activities able to finally resume. For many after such a long period of fear, doubt and concern, the return to normality will be tentative. People have clearly been impacted; there are concerns for mental health and the NHS faces a huge backlog in normal health care.

Following concerns over the Omicron variant some measures were reintroduced (30/11/21) (masks in shops unless exempt - not pubs). 'Vaccine passports' that would restrict access to some venues and events for the unvaccinated (3 jabs) being put to Parliament (14/12/21)…

Covid measures were wound down in England (Plan B) from 27/1/22, with life returning to normal, and many travel restrictions beginning to be lifted. Covid passes ceased to be required at venues and the testing regime ceased to be 'free' on 1/4/22. The damage in terms of cost and impact (social/economic) of two years of Covid measures will be felt for some time.

Local Community Affected

The Lockdown has had a major impact on all community activities, with meetings, events and projects cancelled or put on hold. Returns to any activity such as youth groups, sport and schools would be subject to new rules and social distancing conditions. After over a year, there were signs of light at the end of the tunnel with a relaxation of rules (small groups allowed to meet indoors from 17/5/21, and further relaxations from July, with groups now able to meet or planning to meet from August and September.

  • Initially Bolton Council closed Libraries and Parks (23/3/20). Black bin collections prioritised over recycling. Public rubbish bins initially sealed for a few weeks. When face-coverings became mandated we saw a big problem with discarded face-masks littering streets and parks. Council services operated at a reduced level as many staff worked from home and non-essential services suspended.
  • Community Centres such as the John Holt Centre were closed from 16/4/20, as a consequence all groups meeting at these venues were suspended. Centres initially re-opened to small groups from 17/5/21. Some venues have been lost due to lack of income, use or changes, e.g., the Hope Centre, the Winifred Kettle and the Bethel Church.
  • W.A.S.P (Westhoughton Age Support Project) - OAP group meeting twice-weekly and putting on occasional trips out saw its 2020 programme cancelled, and could plan nothing for 2021. Happily these isolated oldies can now meet again at the John Holt Centre.
  • Senior Solutions (Visiting Service/Social Support for OAPs) had its two luncheon clubs and social group suspended. Visiting Service was stopped due to Social Distancing, with a focus on a telephone befriending service to check up on OAP clients/carers, maintain contact, and deal with urgent situations or food shopping drop-offs. Staff and volunteers adjusting to the new situation. Things now returning to normal though a venue is needed for the social group.
  • Youth Clubs such as Bolton Lads & Girls Club were stopped but in time were able to adapt to continue to support and offer a service to a as many children and young people as possible until centres could fully open again and activities recommence.
  • W.O.W. (Women of Westhoughton) - Hope Centre-based weekly meetings/activities and outings for women 50+ suspended. It is to resume meetings at the John Holt Centre from 2/9/21.
  • Westhoughton Art Group and Art by Elise classes at John Holt Centre and Hope Centre were suspended. Some classes held via Zoom.
  • Tending to be older and thus high-risk groups, local Churches were all hit - both for religious and community use - services initially suspended, later allowed, with smaller congregations and safety measures. Some, like St. Bart's, reached out via email newsletters and streamed Sunday services. St. James Church (Daisy Hill) had to cancel its classical Concert Series programme. The Bethel (United Reformed Church) which organised a 'Bethel Buddies' scheme to look after its isolated congregation; unfortunately with the extended duration of the Lockdown, a refurbishment project fell through and the church announced its closure in July 2021.
  • Westhoughton Local History Group - bi-monthly meetings and occasional trips came to a halt. Committee meetings eventually taking place using Zoom, and monthly virtual speaker meetings events started in 2021. Similarly, all sessions by groups based at the library were suspended. The library, whilst open for book lending and computer access, expects to open its doors again to groups from September.
  • Both amateur dramatic groups - The Bethel Crowd and Westhoughton Methodist ADS - suspended rehearsals and their planned shows were postponed to a later date. Both groups had been using Zoom for rehearsals and keeping in touch. Unfortunately, losing its church base means that the future of the Bethel Crowd is in doubt; Daisy Hill FC have stepped in to allow them to use their clubhouse for rehearsals.
  • Sport - local football leagues (Daisy Hill FC) and rugby leagues (Westhoughton Lions) and school sports fixtures were suspended. FA ended (voided) the 2019-20 football season at lower levels. New season for local non-league clubs began 3/10/21 but was soon suspended again. Cup competition has restarted the season (April), with new league season starting in July. Rugby and Cricket now back too.
  • A testing time for Wingates Brass Band with concerts postponed and group practice sessions suspended. Band using Zoom to allow for some rehearsal scheduling, and have made a number of videos. First concert back was the 'Best of Brass', Halifax (3/7/21); first local event will be an open-air evening concert at Westhoughton Cricket Club 29th August.
  • Friends of Westhoughton Station have now resumed regular Sunday morning activities (11/4/21). Though less frequent, Friends of Daisy Hill Station are also back doing tasks on site.
  • Westhoughton High School was partially shut-down indefinitely for formal teaching, with education continuing though homework assignments/online learning. In School, Educational Provision for children of Key Workers. Children returned to school in September for the 2020-21 year with 'Covid' measures in place, though was locked-down again, before reopening (8/3/21) with a stricter Covid regime and testing. There has been much disruption for the children over this period. Testing contributing to uncertainties and unexpected time out for many pupils.
  • Friends of Eatock Lodge was unable to organise any community activities, and announced the cancelation of their September Family Funday. There was an uptick in use of the Nature Reserve as people enjoyed the outdoors and had more free time. A first Lockdown community event, a litter-pick, took place in late February, and a few low-key organised activities have taken place. Across Bolton a number of litter-picking groups started, using local clean-ups as a means of getting some fresh air and exercise - and doing some good!
  • All pubs, clubs, gyms, theatres ordered to close after Friday 21st March (2020). Pubs and sports clubs allowed to re-open in July with capacity and social distancing measures in place; no live entertainment. Bolton pubs were subject to a further lockdown from 8/9/20, and closed again from 23/10/20. Pubs with beer gardens (outdoor consumption) were allowed to open from 12/4/21, and all areas from 17/5/21. Much to the relief of the hard-pressed licencing trade, pubs were back to normal from 19/7/21 with no social distancing measures.
  • Autumn and Winter saw key community events such Royal British Legion Poppy Collections and Remembrance Sunday, Civic events such as Schools Carols Service and Christmas Lights Switch-on and Pretoria Pit Disaster Remembrance… all subject to revision or cancellation. The Rotary Club was unable to do its popular Santa Float tour, though a Just Giving page was set up, and funds raised and shared with a number of community organisations. The Rotary Club has been holding Zoom Speaker Events on the third Thursday of the month throughout (Pete Waterman being one of the speakers).
  • Westhoughton Town Council was suspended, but began to hold monthly meetings via Zoom. In-person councillor meetings resumed in May in the Carnegie Hall.

There has been a lot less going on, particularly for the old (shielding) the loss of regular social interaction will have had a big impact. WCN groups have deep roots in the community and are well-placed to keep an eye people with friends and neighbours to look after each other. During Lockdown new groups such as Covid Assist and the Westhoughton One Stop Shop were set up especially to support people through this period.

 

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  • Westhoughton Library
    Library now open again for books, general reading and computer access. Some activities downstairs, but with referbishment still ongoing upstairs access for community activities will remain closed for time being. Info.
  • History Group - 'At Home'
    Sat 14 May (10am-4pm)
    Arts Theatre, High School (BL5 3DN)
    **Special Event** at Westhoughton High School, 'At Home', an Open Day conference celebrating some key moments in Howfen's history (Flyer).
    Whilst library closed to community groups meetings continue at The Hub. News and updates followed by Speaker. .
  • St. James Church (Daisy Hill)
    Heritage Lottery funded restoration work on the bell tower completed. Now off the 'at risk' register. Fascinating short about the project.
    1st Sat of mth (10-12) 'Open Doors' drop-in - refreshments (also Grub Tub donations) - next 4/6. Messy Church (Kids activities). Plants Sale (28/5).
  • Allotment & Gardening Society
    John Holt Centre (BL5 2NR)
    Initial mtg of new Westhoughton volunteer group (21/4//22) aiming to take on upkeep of plants and floral displays around town centre, as well as other gardening projects.
  • WOW! Women of Westhoughton
    Thursdays from 7:00pm
    John Holt Centre (BL5 2NR)
    Est. 2013, women's group for shared interests, talks, outings & social networking. The group is to resume meetings from 2nd September at its new home. Updated programme.
  • Daisy Hill FC Fixtures (Home)
    League Division 1 North
    New Sirs (BL5 2EB)
    After disruptions of recent times The Cutters are now playing again. New management, new signings and clubhouse improvements. Support your local team. KO Sat 3pm or Mon 7:45pm. £5 adults / £3 concession / £2 U18s / U12s free w/ adult.
    WCN has been providing community news and features for home game programmes >> .
  • Speaker Events
    Both and the have been holding monthly 'open' Zoom speaker events. See Facebook for details.
  • Lockdown information (Covid-19)
    For 16 months life and community was disrupted by measures to deal with the pandemic. It has been a long and impactful period, thankfully things are opening up again there is a return to normal. Watch for updates as community re-engages here and on
    Westhoughton.net Facebook Page.
  • Town Centre Masterplan
    Proposals for investment in Town Centre (Market Street focus) were consulted upon in 2019-20 with a Steering Group meeting to discuss plans for £4m investment and significant changes to Market Street, Central Park, Carnegie Hall and Town Hall. Revised plan now approved.
  • New Support Services
    Two new services have commenced during Lockdown to support local community and vulnerable: Covid Assist and Westhoughton One Stop Shop.
  • Hope Community Centre
    The Central Drive church and community space is currently closed pending refurbishment discussions with Bolton Council.
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