A solicitors’ firm in Bolton linked to 18 cases of coronavirus has had its office closed by the local authority. Accident Injury Solicitors was served with directions by environmental health officers on Friday to immediately close. The business will remain closed indefinitely until Bolton Council is satisfied improvements have been made.

New tighter restrictions were introduced in the town last week to curb the spread of the virus, after recording the highest rate of new Covid-19 cases in the country.

According to a news release published yesterday by the council, the office of AI Solicitors was shut down after family members related to employees working at the firm raised concerns about its practices.

The family members alleged that the firm was not informing staff of cases of Covid-19 in the workforce, and employees were being forced to work alongside others who had tested positive for the virus.

Environmental health officers visited the premises and found that seating arrangements were not far enough apart to manage social distancing, and cleaning arrangements were ‘unsatisfactory’. The council and Public Health England found 18 cases linked to the firm.

Bolton Council’s executive cabinet member for environment regulatory services, Cllr Hilary Fairclough, said: ‘The restrictions are clear – and in the case of this firm we had no choice but to take action.

‘The firm clearly showed a disregard for the health of their staff and the wider community.

‘We are in indebted to members of the public for letting us know about these unsafe practices.’

A spokesman for the firm told the Bolton News that it takes social responsibility and the health of its employees very seriously and takes issue with any insinuation that implies otherwise. He asked the council to amend its press release and said if the matter remains unresolved it was open to proceeding with legal action.

The spokesman added: ‘It is incorrect for the council to state that the firm has been closed down indefinitely, The premises has been closed and not the business, as our employees are operating remotely from their homes and have been doing so a week before the council was even aware of any issue.

“We are a locally owned and operated business and are trying our best to operate under a very unusual and tough time. We have done or utmost to follow all the guidance (which changes daily and unexpectedly) issued by the government both locally and nationally.’

A joint taskforce has been set up between Bolton Council and Greater Manchester Police to make sure businesses and individuals are complying with new regulations, with a barber shop and four takeaways shut down last week.

Special measures were brought in for Bolton after the local infection rate reached 120 cases per 100,000. Households are banned from mixing in public outdoor settings and restaurants, cafes and pubs are restricted to takeaway only.