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Coronavirus: 'Disappointing' setback as Leicester goes back into lockdown

Coronavirus: 'Disappointing' setback as Leicester goes back into lockdown

Published at 4:43pm 29th June 2020. (Updated at 6:55am 30th June 2020)

Leicester is going back into lockdown after a spike in local coronavirus cases.

Non-essential shops in the city will be closed again from today - and schools will close from Thursday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the House of Commons last night.

People living in Leicester are being urged to "stay at home as much as they can" and the nationwide easing of lockdown planned for 4 July does not apply to them, he said.

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This means pubs, restaurants, hotels and hairdressers preparing to reopen will have to delay their plans.

Travel in and out of the city should be avoided unless absolutely necessary.

The relaxation of rules for people who are shielding in the area - planned for 6 July - cannot go ahead either.

It comes after figures revealed Leicester accounts for 10% of all positive coronavirus cases reported across the country over the past week.

Leicester currently has 135 cases per 100,000 people - three times the amount of infections in the next highest city.

A walk-in testing centre is being set up in the city for people with symptoms, with extra funding going to all Leicestershire councils to help support businesses and those forced to self-isolate.

Authorities will help workplaces who have seen a cluster of cases and help them become more "COVID-19-secure".

Mr Hancock said the measures will be reviewed in two weeks and will not be in place "any longer than necessary".

They will not only apply to the city of Leicester but also to the surrounding area, he added.

The health secretary said: "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 recommend to people in Leicester, stay at home as much as you can, and we recommend against all but essential travel to, from and within Leicester.

"We'll monitor closely adhering to social distancing rules and we'll take further steps if that is what's necessary."

Children whose parents are key workers will still be able to go to school, he added.

Reacting to the decision, Leicester Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby described the move as "disappointing".

But he told Sky News: "There are obviously challenges here in Leicester and the sooner we get them sorted out the sooner we can get on with unlocking in the way the rest of the country is.

"Getting on top of the outbreak is a very high priority. We were a bit sceptical, but on reflection I think it's a very sensible thing for them [the government] to do."

Leicestershire County Council leader Nick Rushton added: "Clearly coronavirus does not adhere to lines on a map.

"And although county rates are below the national and regional averages, we can't be complacent and it makes sense to step up restrictions in areas closer to the city.

"This is the first localised lockdown on this scale and undoubtedly there will be issues to iron out.

"I understand this is disappointing news when most of the country is opening back up, but it's crucial that people follow the latest advice."

This is the clearest indication the current crisis is far from over
Analysis by political correspondent Joe Pike

We knew this local lockdown was coming, but the four-hour delay to the health secretary's formal announcement made it clear quite how tricky this decision was. Both for the government and for the city of Leicester.

On Tuesday, Boris Johnson is due to deliver a major speech elsewhere in the Midlands. It was supposed to be a carefully crafted intervention to reset his premiership: shifting attention away from the COVID crisis, and towards the "levelling-up" agenda on which the PM was elected.

But this is the clearest indication the current crisis is far from over. The prime minister may want to move forwards, yet parts of the country are now moving backwards in their coronavirus recovery. And all this just a few days before bars, restaurants and cafes are due to reopen in the rest of England.

There has been little clarity as to how this local lockdown will be policed, or the extent to which the people of Leicester will follow the rules. And if Leicester is first, where's next?

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