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Boris Johnson denies ‘lost week’ in imposing Leicester lockdown amid PMQs clash with Keir Starmer

The Prime Minister clashed with the Labour leader in the Commons on Wednesday (Parliamentlive.tv)

3 min read

Boris Johnson has rejected claims from Labour’s Keir Starmer that the Government oversaw a “lost week” in locking down Leicester after a surge in coronavirus cases.

The Prime Minister said the Government had “acted decisively” in reimposing a host of restrictions on the east midlands city — as Sir Keir said it had been too “slow to act”.

A raft of lockdown measures— including the shutting down of non-essential retail — were reintroduced in Leicester on Tuesday.

Meanwhile primary schools which reopened to some pupils on June 1 will be closed to all-but the children of key workers and those who are vulnerable in the area from Thursday.

And the city will not lift its restrictions on pubs, restaurants or hotels on July 4 or ease curbs on vulnerable people who are shielding when the rest of England moves ahead on July 6.

Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions, Sir Keir said there had been “a delay of 11 days” between Matt Hancock first acknowledging an outbreak at the June 18 press conference and the new measures being announced.

And he asked Mr Johnson: “Why was the government so slow to act?”

Hitting back, the Prime Minister said the Government first “took notice and acted on what was going on in Leicester” on June 8 “because we could see that there was an issue there”.

“We sent mobile testing units, formal mobile testing units shortly thereafter,” the Conservative leader said.

“We engaged actively with the authorities in Leicester, with public health in Leicester, with everybody responsibly in Leicester in the way that we’ve done with other areas that have had similar issues.”

And he added: “We acted decisively and I think it was the right thing to do.”

The Labour leader said that while his party backed the lockdown move, schools and businesses in Leicester “might need some persuading that the government acted quickly enough“.

And he said local authorities in Leicester had only been provided with half of the coronavirus testing data needed.

“They didn’t have pillar two tests, the wider tests in the community,” Sir Keir said. 

“Now that may sound technical, but what that meant is that the local authority thought there were 80 positive tests in the last fortnight — when the real figure was 944.”

The Labour leader added: “The local authority was only given the real figure last Thursday, so there was a lost week while the virus was spreading. 

“There are now real fears of further local lockdowns across the country. Can the Prime Minister give a cast-iron guarantee today that no other local authority will ever be put in that position again?”

Sir Keir said that claim had been backed up by a conversation with the mayor of Leicester who had been “absolutely clear that he didn’t get that data until last Thursday“.

But Mr Johnson insisted data on the Government’s Covid-19 testing had been shared “not just with Leicester but with all authorities across the country”. 

And he said: “We did in Leicester exactly what we did in Kirklees or in Bradford or in Weston-Super-Mare, or other places where effective whack-a-mole policies have been put in place. 

“And for reasons I think the House will probably understand there were particular problems in Leicester in implementing the advice and getting people to understand what was necessary to do. 

“But, let’s face it, we’ve had to act, the government has acted. And he wants to know if we’ll act in future to ensure that we protect the health of the entire country, and I can tell him that we will, absolutely.”

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