Leicester becomes first local lockdown after spike in coronavirus infections with schools and shops ordered to shut

MORE than 500,000 people were tonight told they will remain in stricter lockdown after a surge of Covid-19 infections.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Leicester would be the only place in England not allowed to ease restrictions.

Royal Logistics Corps soldiers man a Covid-19 testing station at Leicester’s Evington Leisure Centre

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told people in Leicester to ‘stay at home as much as you can’

Boris Johnson’s plans to unlock the country by opening up pubs, restaurants and hairdressers has been halted in Leicester

While the rest of the country opens up on Saturday, the city’s pubs, restaurants and hairdressers will instead remain closed for two more weeks — until July 18 — at least.

Meanwhile, non-essential shops will have to shut again from today. Schools will close for most pupils from Thursday.

Mr Hancock warned that Leicester could even go into full lockdown again is outbreaks continue, with travel restricted in and out of the area.

He told those in the East Midlands city: “Stay at home as much as you can.”

Speaking to the Commons, he said: “We cannot recommend the easing of the national lockdown, set to take place on July 4, happens in Leicester.

‘STAY AT HOME’

“Having taken clinical advice on the actions necessary, and discussed them with the local team in Leicester and Leicestershire, we have made some difficult but important decisions.

“We have decided that from tomorrow, non-essential retail will have to close.

“And, as children have been particularly impacted by this outbreak, schools will also need to close from Thursday — staying open for vulnerable children and children of critical workers as they did throughout.

“Unfortunately, the clinical advice is that the relaxations of shielding measures cannot now take place in Leicester.

“We recommend to people in Leicester — stay at home as much as you can. And we recommend against all but essential travel to, from and in Leicester.”

He warned the Government could take “further steps” if needed.

A woman walking past a sign warning about social distancing
Non-essential shops and schools will have to shut again

Bars had been preparing to reopen on Saturday

Officials asked for more time to get the disease under control in Leicester after Public Health England identified 2,987 cases — 866 in the past two weeks.

There have been outbreaks in food production sites, clothing factories and in large multi-generational households.

About 28 per cent of Leicester’s population is of Indian heritage, and a further 21 per cent are from black or Asian backgrounds.

Language barriers, high levels of diabetes and poverty among it may have played a part in the new surge.

But the decision to extend lockdown was criticised by the city’s mayor.

Sir Peter Soulsby said: “If the virus is out of control or spreading with the restrictions, I can’t see how extending them for a further two weeks would make any difference.

“What we have got is an assessment of the situation which admits that the increase in positives is as a result of increased testing, and that there is perhaps nothing in significance in those results.

“If there is anything out there, we need to see it and it needs to be at street level.”

The Department of Health has deployed four military-run mobile testing units to the area to check residents for the disease.

Thousands of home testing kits are also being made available.

Health chiefs hope to identify as many cases as possible and tracing their contacts, so they can be told to isolate.

They will also be contacting businesses that are open to encourage them to take measures to control the spread of the virus.

‘FURIOUS AND DEVASTATED’

Adverts in multiple languages on TV, radio and street signs will encourage people to stay at home.

Officials will review the situation in two weeks and decide to ease, maintain or tighten the controls.

Leicester residents and businesses reacted with despair to the news they would no longer be able to reopen on Super Saturday.

Hairdresser Sandra May, 52, said: “I am absolutely furious and devastated.

“I’ve had so many calls from customers wanting to know what’s happening. We’re fully booked and they’ve just dropped us right in it.

“We’d taken the precautions with PPE and planned training for the staff, we’ve sterilised everything — it’s cost a fortune.

The decision to extend lockdown was criticised by the city’s mayor, Sir Peter Soulsby

Alex Hylton, licensee of the Salmon Pub, said he was ‘absolutely gutted’ at not being able to reopen

“I’ve been following the rules but I’m opening on July 4 regardless. I’ve told all my clients.

“If they want to arrest all the hairdressers in Leicester they’ll have some prisoners with great hair.”

Alex Hylton, 24, licensee of the Salmon Pub, said: “If we have to stay shut to help the city recover, I completely respect that.

“But I’m absolutely gutted. This summer would have been great for the pub trade.”

Chris Twitchell, manager of the Marquis Wellington, added: “We’re definitely keen to get back pulling pints but, of course we want to make sure it’s safe for the customers and staff to do so.”

Football fan George Partridge, 23, said: “I’m gutted I won’t be able to watch the Super Saturday game in a pub.”

“I was really looking forward to watching it down my local for the first time in weeks with some mates.”

‘EXTREMELY WORRYING’

Unite, which claims to be the largest trade union in Leicester, backed calls for targeted lockdowns across the city.

Regional secretary for the East Midlands, Paresh Patel, said: “This spike in coronavirus cases across the city is extremely worrying.

“Everyone needs to now play their part in getting this under control as rapidly as possible with localised lockdowns as necessary.”

Claudia Webbe, Labour MP for Leicester East, said a further lockdown period was needed due to a “perfect storm” of poverty, positive tests and an ethnically diverse population.

She added: “I don’t know why they’re not enforcing a lockdown — the evidence suggests there should be one.”

Leicester public health director Ivan Browne said it was unclear what had caused the spike in cases in the city.

He added: “Interestingly, it’s very much around the younger working-age population and predominantly towards the east part of our city.

 

 

“I don’t think at the moment we’re seeing a single cause or a single smoking gun on this.

“So we need really try to dig down and find out what is going on and it’s likely to be a combination of factors.

“Information has been challenging all the way through this.”

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