Bolton MP accused of politicising town's fight against Indian strain

NHS staff slam Labour MP Yasmin Qureshi’s claim that a mile is too far to travel for a jab – while Tory councillor accuses her of politicising Bolton’s fight against Indian strain of Covid

  • Labour accused of politicising Bolton’s fight against Indian strain of Covid-19  
  • Tory council leader David Greenhalgh said ‘it’s a real shame that it would appear some within the Labour Party are prepared to enter into political point scoring’
  • NHS sources said they were dismayed by Labour’s attacks. ‘We have vaccinators who have been at this since December who are shattered,’ said one. 

Labour was last night accused of politicising Bolton’s fight against the Indian strain of coronavirus.

After criticism of the town’s vaccine rollout by local Labour MP Yasmin Qureshi and several Labour councillors, Tory council leader David Greenhalgh said: ‘It’s a real shame that it would appear some within the Labour Party are prepared to enter into political point scoring in the middle of a challenging time for the town. 

‘This is not the time by some to cause division.’

On the BBC’s Newsnight on Monday, Ms Qureshi suggested people from the BL3 and BL4 postcodes had to travel to a vaccination site in the town centre and that six vaccinators were providing jabs for ‘a huge population’. 

She claimed: ‘They were not able to get to people. So, for example, some people had to use two buses, three buses, to get into the town centre.’

On the BBC’s Newsnight on Monday, Ms Qureshi suggested people from the BL3 and BL4 postcodes had to travel to a vaccination site in the town centre and that six vaccinators were providing jabs for ‘a huge population’

In fact, much of the area worst hit by the variant is within 1.5 miles of the vaccination centre at Lever Chambers health centre in Bolton town centre. 

A bus from Wigan Road in Deane, at the far edge of the worst-hit area, to the town centre takes ten minutes and costs £1.50. 

Meanwhile, it is a 20-minute walk from Derby Street, in the heart of BL3, to Lever Chambers. 

Ms Qureshi’s reference to having to change buses is thought to refer to Kearsley, an outlying area, which had just five new cases in the week to May 16.

NHS sources said they were dismayed by Labour’s attacks. ‘We have vaccinators who have been at this since December who are shattered,’ said one 

NHS sources said they were dismayed by Labour’s attacks. 

‘We have vaccinators who have been at this since December who are shattered,’ said one. 

‘They have been working long hours trying to keep these vaccination centres going. 

‘To have people come out and say, “The rollout wasn’t that great” – it is really difficult for staff to hear.’

Much of the area worst hit by the variant is within 1.5 miles of the vaccination centre at Lever Chambers health centre in Bolton town centre

Councillor Nick Peel, leader of the Bolton Labour group, denied the jabs programme had been politicised, adding that a proposal by three Labour councillors in February that ‘more convenient’ vaccination sites were needed had been adopted.

But two Labour councillors for the Great Lever ward in BL3, Mohammed Iqbal and Mohammed Ayub, were criticised after it emerged they flew to Pakistan last October ‘for family commitments’. Foreign travel was not banned at the time, but households in the area were prevented from mixing indoors.

Cllr Peel said both had self-isolated for the requisite 14 days when they returned home.

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