The Bishop of Bolton has spoken to Premier about rising cases of the Indian variant of coronavirus in the town and said there aren't huge numbers of people refusing the vaccine and saying "don't do it."
There are more than 2-thousand 300 confirmed cases in the UK of the Indian variant - around a fifth of those stem from Bolton and Blackburn with Darwen.
Bishop Mark Ashcroft told Premier it's a worrying time: "I think there's quite a lot of anxiety, partly about loved ones, whether or not they're going to get COVID, whether again, going to pass it on to others. The impact on schools could be another worry for people and also businesses. And I think some of the anxieties are around whether or not Bolton will be put into a different tier from the rest of the country.
Bishop Mark praised the NHS and public health authorities for the work being carried out in Bolton and spreading the word about taking up the vaccine "across the different languages."
"It's a very diverse community and in Bolton, that's what is part of its richness and the blessings that we have. The Church of England in particular has many primary schools and secondary schools, which are very, very diverse. So people are talking about it. They're also saying, 'Well, what can we do to help' and being really proactive in seeking out ways in which we can bless our communities and support those who are trying to get the message out.' So there's a kind of anxiety but there's a real desire to work together and to pray together so that we can get on top of this particular situation."
He added that although most of those currently in hospital hadn't had the vaccine, there aren't many people who are not taking up the offer of a jab: "I think most church guys in Bolton in particular, would feel that it's important to have your vaccine if you can at all, I don't think there's a huge number of people who are saying, don't do it.
"And the evidence is pretty clear from the people that were in hospital. The majority of those in hospital at the moment, last time I checked in Bolton hospital, which is a top hospital, it's a great place, and people are being well cared for, most of those didn't have the vaccine. And most people who have had the vaccine have been protected from getting seriously ill. So that message is certainly going out. And I think most people would agree that it is your responsibility to be vaccinated for the protection of the wider community," he added.
On Tuesday Boris Johnson said there's 'nothing conclusive to say we need to deviate' from plans to end coronavirus restrictions next month, despite cases of the Indian variant rising.
Earlier, a cabinet minister admitted a delay to the relaxation of rules wasn't being ruled out - nor were local lockdowns.