Leicester lockdown: shops and schools to shut again as government re-imposes local curbs and shelves reopening plans
The government is re-imposing a wide-ranging lockdown in Leicester as the city continues to experience a high number of coronavirus cases.
Health secretary Matt Hancock told MPs on Monday night he was pressing ahead with plans to reintroduce a string of curbs — including the shutting down of non-essential retail — on the east midlands city from Tuesday.
Meanwhile primary schools which reopened to some pupils on June 1 will be closed to all-but the children of key workers and those who are vulnerable from Thursday.
And the city will not lift its restrictions on pubs, restaurants or hotels on July 4 or ease curbs on vulnerable people who are shielding when the rest of England moves ahead on July 6.
The government’s figures show that the Covid-19 infection rate in Leicester is 135 per 100,000 people.
That puts Leicester’s rate three times higher than the next highest city, Bradford.
Hancock said Leicester now accounted for "10% of all positive cases in the country over the past week".
Announcing the lockdown in the Commons, in a statement delayed by hours of talks with local leaders in the city, Mr Hancock urged its residents to avoid “all-but essential travel” as he confirmed the measures would be reviewed again in two weeks' time.
"Having taken clinical advice on the actions necessary and discussed them with the local team in Leicester, and Leicestershire, we've made some difficult but important decisions," the health secretary said.
"We've 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."
And he added: "Unfortunately, the clinical advice is that the relaxation of shielding measures due on the sixth of July 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 within Leicester.
"We'll monitor closely adherence to social distancing rules, and we'll take further steps, if that's what's necessary.
"The more people follow the rules, the faster we'll get control of this virus and get Leicester back to normal."
Labour's shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth, who is also the MP for Leicester South, said he supported the extension of lockdown measures in the city.
But he questioned the speed of the Government’s response, saying authorities had been “alerted to the situation in Leicester 11 days ago”.
He asked: “Doesn't he agree that if we are, as a nation, to ease lockdown smoothly then those areas that do see flare-ups will need greater speed of response — otherwise we risk no moles getting whacked?”
Ashworth meanwhile said residents in Leicester had been left “concerned, anxious, and scared” to learn about a possible lockdown through media reports “based on anonymous briefings”.
“I understand things get leaked. I've been around politics a long time, I understand that,” the shadow health secretary said.
“But can I just urge him to appreciate that something of this seriousness and sensitivity – people need crystal clear clarity and not briefings perhaps from overeager advisors.”
The changes effectively take Leicester’s lockdown back to where it was before the last round of easing on June 15.
Matt Honeycombe-Foster is the acting editor of CSW's sister title Politics Home, where a verison of this story first appeared.