UK Government plunges Leicester back into lockdown as COVID-19 surges again

“The more people follow the rules, the fast we’ll get control of this virus and get Leicester back to normal.”


The government has long warned that local lockdowns – which Prime Minister Boris Johnson has likened to a game of “whack-a-mole” – would be deployed if authorities struggled to control the disease as the nationwide lockdown is eased. The Leicester lockdown will be the first real test of whether the approach is effective or impractical.

The United Kingdom’s coronavirus death toll stands at 43,575, although ‘excess death’ data suggests up to 65,000 people have died since the outbreak took hold in March.

Leicester represents about 10 per cent of all new confirmed coronavirus cases in the country over the past week.

It has had a comparatively high number of infections for several weeks and it is not clear whether the gradual easing of Britain’s nationwide lockdown during June has had any effect on exacerbating an established local cluster.

“Unfortunately, while cases in most parts of the country have fallen since the peak, in Leicester they have continued to rise,” Hancock said.

The 7-day infection rate in the city stands at 135 cases per 100,000 people – three times greater than Britain’s next highest city.

Deaths, hospitalisations and infections have all declined across the UK over recent weeks, leading Johnson to order the reopening of non-essential shops on June 15. Restaurants, pubs, cafes and museums will be allowed to reopen on July 4 in England. The devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are making similar plans but are acting slightly more cautiously.

Hancock said the Leicester outbreak meant non-essential stores would have to close again, and restaurants and pubs would not be allowed to reopen on July 4 as planned. He promised to review the measures in a fortnight but some form of lockdown is likely to last for at least a month.

Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth – who represents a constituency in Leicester’s south – supported the measures but questioned why the government had waited so long.

“We were alerted to the situation in Leicester 11 days ago, and now we have got tonight the whack-a-mole strategy,” Ashworth said.

“But if we are as a nation to ease from the lockdown smoothly, then those areas which do see flare-ups will need greater speed in the response otherwise we risk no moles getting whacked.”

Hancock also used his late-night address to Parliament to highlight two milestones in the UK’s crisis: no COVID-19 deaths had been recorded in Scotland for a fourth consecutive day, and there were now no intensive care patients with coronavirus in Northern Ireland.

Johnson will outline his plans to revive Britain’s shattered economy during a major speech on Tuesday.

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