The local authorities of Leicester, on Monday expressed “frustration” over reports that it could face up to a fortnight of extra localised lockdown measures amid a flare-up in COVID-19 infections in the region.
British prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “concerned” about the city as he confirmed government plans for a “whack-a-mole”, or localised stamping down strategy, as the rest of England prepares for a substantial lifting of lockdown restrictions starting from this Saturday.
“We are concerned about Leicester, we are concerned about any local outbreak. I want to stress to people that we are not out of the woods yet,” said Johnson.
However, Leicester City Council complained about a lack of communication over government plans, which would mean that pubs, restaurants and hairdressers in the city will be unable to open at the same time as the rest of the country.
“Frankly, it’s been intensely frustrating,” said Leicester Mayor Peter Soulsby.
“I’ve looked at this report and, frankly, it’s obviously been cobbled together very hastily. It’s superficial and its description of Leicester is inaccurate and certainly it does not provide us with the information we need if we are to remain restricted for two weeks longer than the rest of the country,” he said.
According to the local council, the latest figures from Public Health England (PHE) show that 866 new cases of coronavirus were reported in the city in the two weeks up to June 23 and 2,987 people have tested positive with coronavirus in the city since the pandemic.
The city is home to a large chunk of India-born UK residents as well as other ethnic minorities, seen as particularly vulnerable to the deadly virus based on the PHE’s own review.
The most recent official statistics showed that people identifying with Indian heritage remain in the category of those hardest hit from the pandemic among the UK’s ethnic minorities, followed by those of Caribbean and Pakistani heritage.
Leicester East MP Claudia Webbe, from the Opposition Labour Party, accused the government of taking a “reckless” approach to lifting social distancing restrictions.
“The government is drip feeding the truth; a local lockdown is on the cards for Leicester – a city where the minority make up the majority; thus a city where its residents are disproportionately at risk from COVID-19. The government’s rush to ease lockdown is reckless,” she said.
Local leaders are due to discuss the situation with UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock ahead of an address to the House of Commons confirming any localised lockdown plans.
Downing Street said PHE and local councils had the power to impose a local lockdown by temporarily closing public spaces, businesses and venues.
The UK’s Department of Health and Social Care said it is working with PHE and local bodies “to help prevent further transmission of the virus” in Leicester.
“Four mobile testing sites and thousands of home testing kits have been sent to Leicester,” department spokesperson said.