The city of Leicester will have a special lockdown imposed after an outbreak of coronavirus, with some restrictions starting from tomorrow.

The health secretary, Matt Hancock, announced the measures in a late-night speech in the House of Commons, revealing the city currently accounts for 10% of all new cases.

He said:

  • non-essential retailers will have to close from tomorrow
  • schools will have to close from Thursday to all but vulnerable and children of critical workers
  • the relaxation measures due to be implemented across the rest of England on 6 July will not be possible in the city
  • extra funding will be made available to councils to help with translating government advice
  • more support will be given to those self-isolating

Hancock told residents to stay at home if they can and advised only essential travel to, from and within the city.

Leicester becomes the first city in England to undergo such widespread measures.

Worst in the country

Laying out the scale of the problem, Hancock revealed Leicester currently accounts for 1 in 10 new cases.

The city has recorded 866 new cases of coronavirus in the past fortnight.

He said the city has an infection rate of 135 per 100,000 people, which is three times higher than the next highest local area.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock. (Photo by PA Video/PA Images via Getty Images)
Health Secretary Matt Hancock. (Photo by PA Video/PA Images via Getty Images)

Admissions to hospitals in the area are at 6-10 per day as opposed to one a day at other trusts around the country, he said.

In addition to increased mobile testing units, the government will also send further testing capability, including opening a walk-in centre. Anyone with symptoms in the area is urged to get tested as soon as possible.

Hancock said the measures will be kept under review and will not be kept in place “any longer than is necessary”, adding: “We’ll review if we can release any of the measures in two weeks.”

“These Leicester-specific measures will apply not just to the city of Leicester but also the surrounding conurbation including, for example, Oadby, Birstall and Glenfield.

“I know that this is a worrying time for people living in Leicester and I want you to know you have our full support.

“We do not take these decisions lightly but with the interests of the people of Leicester in our hearts,” the health secretary added.

A weekend of confusion

The government’s response to the situation has come under some criticism.

On Sunday, Priti Patel appeared to confirm the measures would be coming in an interview with Andrew Marr, but was quickly contradicted by Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s shadow health secretary and Leicester South MP, who said Patel had “got slightly in a muddle” about a possible lockdown.

He said he had spoken to Hancock, adding: “I don’t believe a local lockdown in Leicester is about to be proposed.”

Speaking after Hancock’s announcement on Monday night, Ashworth condemned Boris Johnsons “whack-a-mole” approach to COVID-19.

 “We were alerted to the situation in Leicester 11 days ago and now we’ve got tonight from the Secretary of State the whack-a-mole strategy,” he said.

“Doesn’t he agree that if we’re as a nation to ease the lockdown smoothly then those areas that do see flare ups will need greater speed in the response, otherwise we risk no moles getting whacked?”

Ahead of Monday’s announcement, Sir Peter Soulsby told Radio 4’s Today programme that the government’s response to the crisis had been ‘cobbled together’.

The Labour mayor told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Frankly, it’s been intensely frustrating.”

Soulsby said he had been sent a report at 1am after raising concerns.   Ad: 7 seconds

“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.