Leicester has become the first city in the UK to go into full local lockdown following a surge in Covid-19 infections. While welcoming the decision, health leaders have criticised the Government for a ‘lack of communication’ and insufficient transparency.
Under localised rules, non-essential retail stores will close from today and schools will shut for most students from Thursday.
The national easing of lockdown rules, which will see pubs and restaurants in England reopen on 4 July, will not take place in Leicester. The clinical advice to relax shielding measures on 6 July no longer applies in the city.
The public has been advised against non-essential travel ‘to, from and within Leicester’. Adherence to the lockdown rules will be ‘closely monitored’ and could be enforced by police ‘in some cases’. The Government said it will review the measures in two weeks’ time.
Speaking in Parliament yesterday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said cases have continued to rise in the city since the peak of the pandemic, despite falling in most other parts of the country.
‘The seven-day infection rate in Leicester is 135 cases per 100,000 people, which is three times higher than the next highest city,’ he said.
‘Leicester accounts for around 10% of all positive cases in the country over the past week.’
The city also saw between six and 10 hospital admissions per day, as opposed to an average of one at other trusts, he added.
Further to strengthening lockdown rules, the Government said it will support the city by sending ‘further testing capability’, through opening a walk-in test centre, alongside mobile testing units.
It also announced extra funding for Leicester and Leicestershire councils to support them to ‘enhance their communications’ with the public, including via translated public health advice.
Lack of communication and transparency
However, community and health leaders have criticised the Government over its communication with them.
Leicester Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby has said he and his colleagues were ‘taken by surprise’ when the Government suggested a local lockdown, as they had no prior information to suggest a particular issue in the area. They had to wait another week to receive comprehensive data from the Government, he commented.
Leicester’s director of public health Dr Ivan Browne said the area is now receiving postcode data relating to the infection rate, which has been ‘hugely helpful’.
‘My team has crunched that data and we are now getting to that point where we are down to local areas, so that means we can have a real good attempt to try and make sure we are tailoring our messages and we are providing the testing resources that are needed.’
Responding to the announcement, NHS Confederation chief executive, Niall Dickson, today said: ‘What has happened in Leicester could well be repeated elsewhere, and we need a transparent approach for any future local lockdowns, with clear accountability and public messages that are transparent, consistent, and timely. This episode has been clouded in confusion.’
He said there has been a ‘lack of clear communication’ from the Government and a ‘seemingly slow’ response in working with the local authorities.
‘We understand that it is not always easy to spot trends and that we do not yet have reliable data in real time. But we have to be quicker at understanding what is happening and provide transparency about infection rates,’ he warned.