Leicester lockdown: City-wide restrictions 'not justified'

A view of an empty street, following a local lockdown imposed amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Leicester Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Leicester has been in a stricter lockdown since 29 June

The city-wide lockdown in Leicester was "not justified" its mayor has said, after new data showed only certain areas had higher Covid-19 cases.

Sir Peter Soulsby said about 10% of the city's neighbourhoods "have a higher transmission" of the virus.

He said data should have been shared earlier so authorities could focus on "preventing the transmission there".

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said it "makes no apology" for trying to reverse infection rates.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, the Leicester mayor said it had taken "weeks" to "finally get some useful data" from the government.

He said: "It's very clear when you look at the data it's a couple of areas of the city that have got a higher than average transmission of the virus.

"Certainly the way the city's been locked down in its entirety, and even beyond its boundaries, is not justified."

Sir Peter, who has frequently been critical of the government's approach to Leicester's lockdown, said the data should have been shared "many, many weeks ago".

He added: "We should have focused on those areas preventing the transmission there."

Image caption Farm workers in Herefordshire are being asked to remain on the farm during a period of isolation

On Sunday it was reported up to 200 workers at a farm in Herefordshire were told to self-isolate after 73 people tested positive for Covid-19.

The farm's lockdown was cited as an example of "targeted action" being taken, instead of large regional lockdowns.

But speaking on BBC Radio Leicester, England's deputy chief medical officer asserted "Leicester should be in lockdown at the moment".

Dr Jonathan Van-Tam said the city was "quite an outlier in terms of the rate of coronavirus infections".

He said a Public Health England report published on Saturday showed there were 126 cases of coronavirus in Leicester per 100,000 people.

It is significantly higher than other East Midlands cities like Derby, which is 9.3, and Nottingham at 5.4.

Dr Van-Tam said targeted action, like that taken on the farm in Herefordshire, would not work in Leicester.

"What I understand about the farm is that workers live on the farm residentially throughout the summer," he said.

"It's very tidy, and there's a single-point source.

"What we have in Leicester is a situation where parts of Leicester, the rate of transmission in the open community are very high indeed."

The tighter lockdown restrictions in Leicester are set to be reviewed from 18 July.

Leicestershire County Council leader Nick Rushton said he would speak to Health Secretary Matt Hancock later to ask him to remove some suburbs from the lockdown area if it continues beyond that date.

He said the number of cases in Thurmaston, Birstall and Glenfield was low and residents were increasingly annoyed about being subject to the tighter restrictions.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Leicester's lockdown is set to be reviewed by Health Secretary Matt Hancock this week

The leader of the government's track and trace programme, Baroness Dido Harding, said: "It's encouraging to see that both the number of positive cases being reported are coming down, and the percentage of people being tested who are positive is also coming down.

"The measures are really starting to make a difference, but whether or not they will have come down enough in five days' time is too early to say at this stage."

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: "Seeing that cases in Leicester were significantly higher than other parts of the country, we make no apology for working with Leicester leaders to take decisive action to reverse this trend and save lives.

"The government's priority is to protect the public, which is why local partners in Leicester have able to access government-held data from 19 June, and we are working closely with them so that these necessary local restrictions can be removed as soon as possible."

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