Leicester's local lockdown to be partially relaxed, Health Secretary announces

16 July 2020, 17:10 | Updated: 16 July 2020, 19:51

Health Secretary Matt Hancock was speaking in the House of Commons
Health Secretary Matt Hancock was speaking in the House of Commons. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Some local lockdown restrictions in Leicester to be lifted but pubs and restaurants will remain closed, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced.

The seven-day infection rate in the city has now dropped from 135 to 119 Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people, Mr Hancock confirmed, which is still "well above the national average and the average for the surrounding areas."

However, the percentage of people testing positive for coronavirus in Leicester has now dropped from 10 per cent to 4.8 per cent, which he described as a "positive indicator."

Therefore, from 24 July, the city can begin removing restrictions on schools and early years childcare and move towards a more targeted approach with non-essential retail outlets, Mr Hancock announced.

He told MPs in the House of Commons: "We're now in a position to relax some but not all of the restrictions that were in place.

"From 24 July we'll be removing the restrictions on schools and early years childcare and taking a more targeted approach to the restrictions on non-essential retail."

However, travel and social gatherings restrictions will not be relaxed.

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"Restrictions like those for travel and only having social gatherings of up to six people, for example, will remain in force," announced the health secretary.

"And measures introduced on 4 July (on a national level), like reopening the hospitality sector, will also not yet apply."

Mr Hancock also announced a new local power to close non-essential shops in Leicester where necessary.

He added: "I committed to reviewing the measures in Leicester every two weeks.

"This morning I chaired a gold meeting of the local action committee to discuss the latest situation and this afternoon I held a further meeting with local leaders, Public Health England, the JBC (Joint Biosecurity Centre), the local resilience forum and my clinical advisers."

Mr Hancock paid tribute to the people of Leicester and Leicestershire for their "perseverance and hard work."

He told the Commons: "Some say that the local lockdown is unnecessary. I wish this were true, but sadly it remains vital for the health of everyone in Leicester and the rest of the country that these restrictions stay in place.

"We will review them again in a fortnight. I hope that this careful easing of restrictions will provide some comfort to people in Leicester and Leicestershire.

"And I'd say this directly to people of Leicester and of Leicestershire: I pay tribute to you all. Your perseverance and your hard work has brought real and tangible results and you've shown respect for one another."

Mr Hancock also told MPs of an issue relating to testing: "We've identified some test swabs that are not up to the usual high standard that we expect and we'll be carrying out further testing of this batch.

"As a precautionary measure, and while we investigate further, we're requesting the use of these Randox swab test kits are paused in all settings until further notice.

"This problem was brought to my attention yesterday afternoon, we contacted settings using these swabs last night and published the pause notice immediately.

"Clinical advice is that there's no evidence of any harm, the test results are not affected, there is no evidence of any issues with our other test swabs and there is no impact on access to testing."

Leicester's council leader published a new map for the city's lockdown restrictions
Leicester's council leader published a new map for the city's lockdown restrictions. Picture: Leicestershire County Council

Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth welcomed the increased testing in Leicester and paid tribute to its residents for their actions during the 17 weeks they have of lockdown they have endured.

The Labour frontbencher, who is MP for Leicester South, told the Commons: "If we still have to make further personal sacrifice to keep people safe and hunt this virus down with the lockdown, then so be it.

"But there's no question there will be a degree of dismay across the city in response to the Secretary of State's remarks."

Mr Ashworth said many businesses will want to know if they can get extra support if they cannot reopen.

Nick Rushton, the leader of Leicestershire County Council said: "I know everyone in Oadby and Wigston will be disappointed they are not coming out of lockdown yet, but it is so far above the national average for cases that we have to remain cautious.

"I understand why they have campaigned vigorously not to be in lockdown and I hope that the current improvements will bring that closer.

“Leicestershire’s figures are double the national average so now is not a time for complacency."

Along with his statement, Mr Rushton published a map detailing the areas of Leicester that will remain subject to stricter lockdown restrictions.

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