Frustrated City Mayor slams ‘sledgehammer approach’ to Leicester lockdown

Health Secretary Matt Hancock speaking in the Commons

The Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced that some lockdown restrictions in Leicester are to be relaxed.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Hancock paid tribute to the people of Leicestershire and said that although progress had been made “there was still a lot to do”.

In his statement he highlighted that the latest seven day infection figures were still above the national average but that it had improved enough since the local lockdown was instated on 30 June to reconsider the restrictions.

As a result from 24 July, schools and nurseries will be able to reopen and the blanket ban on non-essential shops will be lifted, with powers given to the city council to take a “targeted approach” to closures if required.

However pubs and restaurants, which have reopened in other parts of the country, must remain closed.

The Health Minister also highlighted that the restrictions would now only apply to the city of Leicester and the suburbs of Oadby and Wigston, but that guidance against meetings of larger groups and non-essential travel remained.

The restrictions will reviewed again in two weeks time.

Leicester City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby reacted with frustration at the decision.

He said: “I am not surprised by this decision but remain extremely frustrated that a sledgehammer approach is being taken to deal with an issue in a very small part of the city.

“Now that we finally have the very detailed data we have been calling for over the past few months, we can take targeted local action to get the virus under control, without the need for the force of law or a full city lockdown.

“We have already showed the Government what can be achieved when they work with local councils on the ground, by helping them to set up the biggest testing operation in the country which is now responsible for more than 10% of all testing in England.

“If the Government allowed us to focus on the 10% of the city where infection rates are higher, we are more than capable of doing what is needed.

“We will of course continue with our efforts to eradicate the virus which are having some success, and that work will remain our key priority.

“It is also now even more essential the Government gives us the go ahead to release the £10m in business grant funding that we have ready to go, but have previously been told cannot be distributed.

“Leicester businesses have already been hit very hard by this lockdown and we must do all we can to save livelihoods as well as lives, as we face another very difficult period.”