England’s first local lockdown will begin in Leicester this week in a bid to combat a surge in COVID-19 cases.
People in Leicester and its outlying areas are to be asked to continue to follow stricter lockdown restrictions for at least two weeks.
Shops that were allowed to open on 15 June will have to close again from today, and all schools in the area identified will be forced to shut to most children from Thursday and will not reopen until next term. Bars, restaurants and hairdressers will not open on July 4 as planned.
The changes will also apply to parts of Leicestershire close to the city’s boundaries, with Leicestershire CC and Public Health England working on the detail of this.
The changes will require new legislation to be drafted before they can be implemented.
Health secretary Matt Hancock said the number of positive coronavirus cases in Leicester was ‘three times higher than the next highest city’.
He added: ‘We have been monitoring it incredibly closely, and we have put in extra testing units. Some of the schools in Leicester were closed already.
‘We also went into some of the factories and workplaces where there was an outbreak and we put in place measures. These sort of much more targeted measures have worked in other outbreaks.’
He continued: ‘We’ve been taking this highly localised approach but unfortunately that targeted action wasn’t working in Leicester and that’s why we have taken this much broader measure.’
City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby met with the health secretary and other officials yesterday to discuss the latest data and actions needed.
Sir Peter said: ‘These measures are stricter than we anticipated but we understand the need for firm action. I am determined that we will make this work and to minimise the time these additional measures need to be in place in the city.
‘We will of course continue to play our part in keeping people in the city safe and healthy.’
The Government has said these measures needed to be taken following a surge in cases in the east of the city over the past two weeks. They will be reviewed two weeks after implementation.
The latest figures obtained by the city council show that 3,216 Covid-19 cases have been confirmed in Leicester since the start of the epidemic. Of these, 944 cases were reported in the last two weeks.
These figures include the number of patients and staff testing as positive in hospitals, known as Pillar 1 figures, and positive cases identified in testing centres, known as Pillar 2.
The council did not previously have access to the Pillar 2 data, but this is now being provided on a weekly basis.
Leicester currently has three mobile testing sites in the city in Evington, Spinney Hill Park and Victoria Park, and a more permanent facility on the edge of Leicester at the Birstall park and ride site. An indoor testing centre is due to open today at the Highfields Community Centre, and further testing sites are planned.
The city council is now reviewing its plans to extend the opening of its own buildings such as libraries, museums and children’s centres.
The council has said it asked the Government for more detailed information after its own public health team noticed a surge in the number of people testing positive in the city.
The city council was provided with detailed testing information for the first time on Thursday, one week after Mr Hancock announced that there was a local outbreak in Leicester.