In July, Luton found himself singled out for different treatment across most of England.
While gymnasiums and recreation centers have reopened elsewhere, they have remained closed in the city as it was declared as a response area amid concerns over increasing Covid-19 cases.
The city made headlines again when its mayor resigned after being photographed alongside fellow councilors at a party that broke lockdown rules.
This week alone, as cases start to rise again, one venue was closed and the manager was fined £ 10,000 for hosting a wedding attended by 100 people.
But on Wednesday Luton found himself chosen again – this time for praise – in an exchange between the PM and the opposition leader.
During the Prime Minister’s Questions, Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer asked: “In recent months 48 areas of England have been subject to local restrictions, but only one has ever come out – it’s Luton. Why does the Prime Minister think it is? “
Mr Johnson replied: ‘I think the reason for Luton’s success is that the local people have come together to depress the virus, to follow directions and this is the way forward for the whole country. “
Luton City Council greeted him as “a big thank you.”
“Our residents have been fantastic and have sacrificed so much to protect themselves,” said a spokesperson.
“But we ask everyone to remain vigilant and follow directions as we see a worrying new outbreak of this horrific virus. “
Mohammed Munir, who runs the Haji and Sons mini-supermarket in the city’s Bury Park. said he was surprised at Mr Johnson’s comments.
“I was stunned at this,” he said.
“We think things are pretty bad right now here. Too many people also go to theaters.
“I was surprised the wedding venue was fined, but it’s not the only one.
“The situation doesn’t look better than it used to be. I don’t think we should be in line with the praise. We need to do more to curb the effect of Covid-19. “
Luton has a population of around 214,100 and a rich industrial heritage in car making and hat making.
Lively Bury Park, close to the Kenilworth Road football ground, is an ethnic hub of colorful market stalls and restaurants in the shadow of the city’s central mosque.
Usman Ayub, 33, who works at his family’s butchers, Luton Halal, said he felt townspeople were “listening” to warnings about the coronavirus.
“I have heard the prime minister give a lot of praise to the people of Luton, but the advisers here need a special mention,” he said.
“They visit us every day to make sure the guidelines are strictly followed – if they don’t push us, we’ll get lazy.
“But people are listening – and many more are wearing masks compared to the initial lockdown in March.
“We cannot let go of the standards. Do your best, wear a mask, wash your hands and stay safe – it really is that simple.
“If we can get out the winter, we’ll have a good summer. “
Analysis: by Daniel Wainwright, BBC England Data Unit
In July, Luton gymnasiums and leisure centers were barred from opening with the rest of England because its rate of new coronavirus cases at the time – just under 28 per 100,000 in a week – was higher than in most other parts of the country.
The restrictions – under what the government calls an ‘area of intervention’ – were relaxed a few weeks later, although the area remained on Public Health England’s watch list for a few weeks.
Cases in Luton have increased recently, as well as in many other areas. The city had the highest rate of new coronavirus cases in the East of England region – 57 per 100,000 population in the week to September 27, but was well below parts of the North West, where rates in some areas exceeded 200 or even 300 per 100,000.
In the week to September 27, 122 new cases were recorded in Luton – about 17 per day – up from 108 the week before.
On a gray Thursday morning, most of the town’s buyers and businesses appeared to be adhering to the guidelines.
Rufaro Mukanya, 39, wears a visor all the time when traveling to Luton.
“I started wearing it more when they said things were getting back to how they were,” she says.
“I only take it off when I get home – or to get some fresh air when there is steam. Better keep it.
“What Boris said made me feel safe – it’s reassuring – but it’s good to know that we are at a level that is not so scary. “
Khalid Han, 29, who runs a fruit and vegetable stall, had a different perspective.
“Some follow the rules, some don’t,” he said.
“Maybe Luton will go back to lockdown, but to be honest it’s better for health and safety reasons. This is a serious question. “
For Laura Gibney, the director of Collinson House Nursing Home in Dunstable Road, the lockdown has never really gone away.
No deaths from Covid-19 have been recorded at the home.
“Our priority is to keep everyone safe – no one came out unless they had to, we used full protection and hand washing – we were extremely careful the whole time. We still are, ”she said.
“We only allow window visits or video and phone calls.
“I think the people of Luton just listened and followed the rules – they know how bad it is. “
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- Coronavirus lockdown measures