Leicester’s mayor has said the current lockdown restrictions could stay in place for another two weeks past July 4.
Sir Peter Soulsby hit out at the ‘intensely frustrating’ information he has received from the Government over the city potentially becoming the UK’s first local lockdown following a surge in cases.
The Sunday Times reported the Government was preparing to impose restrictions on Leicester ‘within days’, which Home Secretary Priti Patel later said was ‘accurate’.
She told the BBC: ‘There will be support going into Leicester and in fact the Health Secretary was in touch with many of us over the weekend explaining some of the measures, the support on testing, resources that will go into the local authority as well.’
But Sir Peter, who said he was only sent the Leicester report at 1am this morning, revealed it is ‘not a return to lockdown’, adding: ‘It seems that what they’re suggesting is that we continue the present level of restriction for a further two weeks beyond July 4.
‘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.’
The Labour mayor said the city needs more coronavirus testing data before any further lockdown is enforced.
He said the information was ‘key to determining what intervention is needed’ to respond to a recent surge in Covid-19 cases.
He added: ‘Whether that intervention is giving more advice or something more dramatic we don’t yet know.
‘If it is decided that a local lockdown is needed the city council currently has no powers to implement this, and there would need to be extensive discussion around the area to be locked down, including whether this extends beyond the city boundaries.’
Sir Peter later told LBC he was ‘angry and frustrated’ that a meeting with Government officials, scheduled for 9am this morning, had been cancelled.
Labour MP for Leicester East, Claudia Webbe, said she believes a local lockdown is necessary for her constituency due to risk factors for coronavirus including poverty and ‘significant levels of African and Asian minority ethnic communities’.
Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s shadow health secretary and Leicester South MP, said the Home Secretary had ‘got slightly in a muddle’ in her comments about a possible local lockdown.
Mr Ashworth said he had been in touch with health secretary Matt Hancock, adding: ‘Based on the conversations we’ve had in the last 24 hours I don’t believe a local lockdown in Leicester is about to be proposed.’
Leicester City Council said it was provided detailed coronavirus testing information for the first time on Thursday, a week after the Health Secretary announced there was a local outbreak in the area.
The council said Public Health England figures show that 2,987 Covid-19 cases have been confirmed in Leicester since the start of the epidemic.
Of these, 866 cases were reported in the last two weeks.
The council asked the Government for more data after its public health team noticed the surge in positive cases.
It said information covering ethnicity and the postcodes of those being tested had not previously been provided.
The Government has agreed to provide more testing facilities in Leicester and the council has been working with Public Health England to reinforce guidelines around social distancing, hand hygiene, and to introduce local messaging around limiting contact with others.
Earlier on Sunday, the Department of Health and Social Care stopped short of saying a local lockdown was likely for Leicester, but acknowledged the city was an area of concern as it urged residents in the city to be vigilant against the virus.
‘We are supporting the council and local partners in Leicester to help prevent further transmission of the virus,’ the spokesman said in a statement.
‘We have deployed four mobile testing sites and made thousands of home testing kits available, to ensure anyone in the area who needs a test can get one.
‘NHS Test and Trace will contact anyone testing positive to help them identify their recent contacts and advise who may have been near to someone with the virus to stay at home to prevent the spread.
‘We urge the people of Leicester to continue to practice social distancing, wash their hands regularly, get tested immediately if they have symptoms and follow the advice they receive if contacted by NHS Test and Trace.
‘This advice is there to protect communities and save lives.’
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