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Leicester could have avoided coronavirus lockdown, mayor says

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image copyrightPA Media
image captionDifferent parts of the Leicester area are now under different levels of lockdown

A lockdown in Leicester could have been avoided if local powers had been available sooner, the mayor has said.

A spike in coronavirus cases in the city saw restrictions tightened again on 29 June.

On Friday, Boris Johnson unveiled powers for councils to use targeted lockdowns in response to local spikes.

But Sir Peter Soulsby said these were needed "three or four weeks ago", and could have saved the city from the government's "sledgehammer" approach.

Mr Johnson said local authorities would be able to close shops, cancel events and shut outdoor public spaces in certain postcodes, if there was a spike in cases.

Sir Peter said he tried to persuade the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) to target the 10% of the city where rates were highest, rather than the whole city.

"We've said that all along, and the fact the government has introduced this legislation backs us up," he said.

image copyrightPA Media
image captionSir Peter Soulsby has repeatedly clashed with the government over the lockdown

"In one sense I'm pleased it shows they've listened to us, but they would never have needed to take the sledgehammer to the city if we had these powers three or four weeks ago.

"If they'd just given us these powers sooner we wouldn't have needed the lockdown."

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The new powers cannot yet be used in Leicester because of the city-wide government-enforced lockdown which is still in place in Leicester itself, along with Oadby and Wigston, until at least 1 August.

Bars, restaurants and hairdressers are among businesses that remain closed.

However from 24 July, local councils will be able to decide whether non-essential retail can begin to reopen.

Infection rate dropping

Official figures show Blackburn is overtaking Leicester as England's coronavirus hotspot.

Data from Public Health England shows Leicester's infection rate has dropped to 77.7 per 100,000 people in the seven days to July 17.

It had 276 new cases in that same period, compared to 429 the previous week.

In the borough of Blackburn with Darwen the rate is 79.2 per 100,000 in the seven days to July 17, with the number of cases nearby doubling in the past week.

image copyrightGiovanna Bouchard
image captionGiovanna Bouchard said some customers at her salon had cried with relief

Ivan Browne, director of public health at Leicester City Council, said testing thousands of residents a day was working and Leicester was "turning this around".

"We need to keep going and I understand people are frustrated by that fact but we're doing well," he said.

He stressed he felt the government's approach to the lockdown in the whole city had been needed.

"It's not just factories, it's not just particular communities, it's not just particular workplaces, and that's why we have to tackle it holistically," he said.

"So it might be in a particular area of the city today, but that doesn't preclude it from being somewhere else tomorrow, so we have got to have that approach where we take it as whole."

Some areas on the edge of Leicester, such as Birstall, Thurmaston and Braunstone Town, saw restrictions lifted on Saturday.

It meant shops such as Anne El Maria hairdressers in Birstall could reopen.

Owner Giovanna Bouchard said: "We had people crying with relief to be back, so I started crying - which behind a visor is a bit steamy."

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