LEICESTER has been ordered to remain in lockdown for another two weeks after a local spike in coronavirus numbers
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said non-essential shops will close from tomorrow and pubs, restaurants and hairdressers will remain closed for the next fortnight.
Mr Hancock told the House of Commons he “cannot recommend that the easing of national lockdown” set to take place on 4 July are able happen in Leicester.
He confirmed that non-essential retail will have to close from tomorrow and schools will also need to close from Thursday – only staying open for vulnerable kids and those of key workers.
The Health Secretary said in Leicester cases have “continued to rise”.
The seven-day infection rate in Leicester is three-times higher than the next highest city, Leeds.
There must also only be essential travel from and to Leicester, he told MPs.
The Health Secretary said the measures will be reviewed in two weeks’ time.
Earlier Boris Johnson said the Government was concerned about Leicester and the potential for a spike in cases.
Today testers swooped in to help track the city’s spread – with members of the military ramping up tests in mobile units at Spinney Hill Park and Evington Leisure Centre.
Thousands of home testing kits are also being made available.
Health chiefs hope to control the flare-up by identifying as many cases as possible and tracing their contacts, so they can be told to isolate.
The outbreak has seen dozens of fresh cases admitted to the area’s hospitals.
There have been 658 cases in the area in the two weeks up to June 16.
HOAR Online can reveal the coronavirus outbreak is thought to have first emerged in the east of the city centre.
Ethically Sourced Products in Spinney Hills, which makes designer Fred Perry polo shirts, has had five positive cases of Covid-19 out of a 50-strong workforce.
An ex-worker of Ethically Sourced Products, who quit the company earlier this month, said: “I’m not surprised by this outbreak.”
Managing Director Richard Olley declined to comment when approached by HOAR Online.
Sainsbury’s has also had seven staff members succumbing to virus symptoms across two stores nearby.
Locals said they believed the ‘outbreak’ is centred around the North Evington and Highfields areas, in the north east of the city.
Others were reported at a sandwich factory and a Sainsbury’s supermarket — and five schools have closed.
Officials are also worried about the city’s food production sites and multi-generational households.
No10 suggested that the local lockdowns would take the form of businesses, schools and hospitals.
A spokesman said earlier: “They can impose temporary closures of public spaces, businesses and venues. Local healthcare facilities also have powers or just the ability to, for instance, stop admissions to hospitals should that be required.
“I think in the past we have discussed closing down schools or groups of schools, and limiting admissions to health facilities.
“If there were a particular business or premise that were linked to an outbreak, close that down.”
But the decision to extend lockdown has sparked a row with the city’s mayor Sir Peter Soulsby ahead of the decision being confirmed by the Health Secretary.
Sir Peter said: “If the virus is out of control or is spreading with the restrictions, I can’t see how extending them for a further two weeks would make any difference to that.”
From Saturday England is opening up pubs, restaurants and hairdressers as part of Boris Johnson’s plans to unlock the country.
But any glimmer of hope for locals in Leicester was quashed this morning, as Sir Peter, said restrictions will likely stay put for another fortnight.
Speaking on the Today programme, Sir Peter said he had received an email from the government overnight and “it seems they’re suggesting we continue the present level of restriction for a further two weeks beyond 4 July”.
It means those cooped-up in the city will have to wait at least two more weeks for a pint with pals in the pub or get their haircut – although as it stands, the area will not return to a full lockdown.
Businesses affected expressed their anger about the decision to extend the lockdown.
Hairdresser Sandra May, 52, owner of DJ’s Groom Room & Sandra May’s Hair Studio, said: “I am absolutely furious and devastated.
“I’ve had so many calls from customers wanting to know what’s happening. We’re fully booked and they’ve just dropped us right in it.
“We’d taken the precautions with PPE and planned training for the staff, we were even doing our own track and tracing, we’ve sterilised everything – it’s cost a fortune.
“I’ve been following the rules but I’m opening on July 4 regardless. I’ve told all my clients.
“If they want to arrest all the hairdressers in Leicester they’ll have some prisoners with great hair.”
Alex Hylton, 24, licensee of the Salmon Pub, said: “I’m absolutely gutted about lockdown potentially being extended.
“If we have to stay shut to help the city recover, I completely respect that. But I can’t see there will be any support from the local or national government.
“This year would’ve been a great year for the pub with the Euros, Leicester in the Champions League and a massive Kasabian gig down the road. We would have sold loads of beer over the summer.”
Meanwhile a local politician has said language barriers among the city’s large Asian community have been cited as one possible factor behind the spike.
City councillor Ratilal Govind told MailOnline that he thought there had been a lack of communication with people who do not speak English as a first language in the city.
Councillor Govind, who represents the city’s Evington ward where one of the four mobile testing stations for the virus has been sited, said: ‘I have seen young people getting together, having a few drinks and conversation.
“They are just social gatherings. With these young people there is a language barrier. They are speaking their own language and I tell them to disperse in Gujarati.
“There is a lack of communication made worse by the language barriers.”
‘WHACK A MOLE’
Speaking of the surge in new cases on a visit to a construction site in west London this morning, the Prime Minister said: “We are concerned about Leicester, we are concerned about any local outbreak.
“I want to stress to people that we are not out of the woods yet. We are making these cautious, calibrated steps, we are opening as much of hospitality as we can on July 4, opening as much of the economy as we can – some things, alas, still remain closed until they can become Covid-secure.”
The UK’s coronavirus death toll has risen to 43,575 after 25 more deaths were confirmed today.
He added that the local “whack-a-mole” strategy had worked in Weston-super-Mare and where there had been outbreaks around GP surgeries in London.
“That’s the same approach that we will bring to bear in Leicester as well.”
The PM’s comments come after the Government was warned this week that imposing local lockdowns could lead to “significant disorder”.
But some MPs, including Labour MP for Leicester East, Claudia Webbe, believe they may be necessary.
Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Ms Webbe said this morning: “I’m very concerned, and I really do believe that where the data allows we need to ensure that we engage in processes to protect lives, and I think we need to go into therefore more localised lockdown to protect lives and ensure that we can address this virus.
“The Government hasn’t reassured us. Thus far, the messages and the communication from the Government have been unclear, and it has been difficult, and I really don’t understand what communities are meant to follow.”