Government will change law to enforce local lockdown in Leicester
30 June 2020, 07:46 | Updated: 30 June 2020, 10:25
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said the Government is prepared to change the law to enforce the local lockdown in Leicester and he will use powers in the Coronavirus Act to do so.
A local lockdown has been imposed on Leicester by the Health Secretary after a spike of coronavirus cases in the city.
It comes as the rest of England prepares to ease restrictions on pubs and restaurants from Saturday - and on the day Boris Johnson sets out a multi-billion pound plan for Britain to recover from the pandemic.
Mr Hancock told LBC the Government "will if we have to" impose travel restrictions in Leicester, but said they hoped people in the city would "do the right thing."
The Health Secretary said it was important people in the city follow the new social distancing rules, as they did across the country during the peak.
He said in order to control the virus "it requires sacrifices by everybody, we need to do that in Leicester now."
He told LBC the Coronavirus Act gave him the "legal powers" to "impose travel restrictions" and prevent people from breaking the new local lockdown.
"We will be bringing forward a legal change very shortly, in the next couple of days, because some of the measures that we've unfortunately had to take in Leicester will require legal underpinning," Mr Hancock told Sky News.
Mr Hancock said "in some cases" the lockdown would be enforced by the police, while legal changes would be made so non-essential retail is no longer open.
Police in the city said they would continue to liaise with partners in relation to current Health Protection Regulations and guidelines and respond appropriately to changes.
A spokesperson for Leicestershire Police said: "This is a dynamic situation and we will adjust accordingly providing proportionate policing under the relevant legislation to help keep people safe in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland. Our approach has always been clear that we will use the four Es – Engage, Explain, Encourage and Enforce where necessary."
"We continue to encourage communities to follow the Government’s guidelines. Please continue to maintain two metres social distancing, wash your hands regularly and get a test if you believe you do have symptoms."
Matt Hancock tells @LBC “we will if we have to” impose travel restrictions in Leicester. At the moment they don’t want to force it, and are hoping people in the city ‘do the right thing,’ follow restrictions and don’t just drive out somewhere else to find an open pub on Saturday.— Rachael Venables (@rachaelvenables) June 30, 2020
Mr Hancock defended the Government's "whack-a-mole" strategy for tackling outbreaks.
"The strategy is to allow for the opening up of the rest of the country, giving people their freedoms back where it is safe to do so," he told Sky News.
"But we also need alongside that to take local action where there is a specific flare-up."
Mr Hancock also said there had been "a number of positive cases in the under-18s" detected through coronavirus testing in Leicester.
"That's why we took the decision, with a heavy heart it has to be said, to close schools in Leicester and in Leicestershire, within the Leicester conurbation."