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Tue, 29 September 2020

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Coronavirus: Matt Hancock could shut Leicester’s schools, public spaces and business in local lockdown after infection spike

Coronavirus: Matt Hancock could shut Leicester’s schools, public spaces and business in local lockdown after infection spike

Boris Johnson said he is 'concerned' by the situation in Leicester (PA)

3 min read

Matt Hancock could tell Leicester’s council to shut some schools, public spaces and business in a local lockdown to deal with the city's spike in coronavirus.

The health secretary is meeting with East Midlands leaders ahead of a decision on how to deal with the issue.

Number 10 said the Cabinet minister will then make a statement in the House of Commons on the next steps on Monday afternoon.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman insisted powers exist to re-impose restrictions to tackle new pockets of Covid-19.

He told reporters: ”Either the local authority or Public Health England have a range of powers themselves to allow them to contain local outbreaks - for example they can impose temporary closures of public spaces, businesses and venues.”

Admissions could be stopped to hospitals, particular schools or groups of schools could be shut, and the Health Secretary also has powers under the Coronavirus Act, the spokesman explained.

But Number 10 played down the possibility of the city’s residents facing roadblocks preventing them leaving, or a blanket order for people to stay in their homes.

The spokesman said: “So I think what the priority would be would be to close down premises linked to outbreaks.”

Earlier Boris Johnson said the Government was “concerned” about Leicester after the recent coronavirus flare-up, following 866 positive tests reported in the two weeks to 23 June.

On a visit to a construction site in west London the PM said: "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.

"But to make all that possible we have to remain vigilant."

He said the local "whack-a-mole" strategy had worked after an increase in cases in Weston-super-Mare and for outbreaks around GP surgeries in London.

Mr Johnson added: ”That's the same approach that we will bring to bear in Leicester as well.”

But Leicester’s mayor Sir Peter Soulsby said he would be telling Mr Hancock at their meeting “there is no reason to pick on Leicester and to impact on our economy and our businesses”.

He said: "I would hope that he will recognise that it's not a case that has been made for imposing restrictions on Leicester where other places are allowed to begin to get back and up and operating."

On what businesses would not be able to reopen on 4 July if a local lockdown was implemented, Sir Peter said: "I think it's very unclear as to what difference it would make if they continue the regulations in Leicester and why you would do it. How can it possibly make any difference?

"Frankly, if the virus is out of control and spreading in Leicester with the restrictions, I can't understand how extending them for a further two weeks would make any difference to that.

"Frankly, we need to have an explanation - but more importantly we need some collaboration with the Government so that we don't hear about these proposals either through announcements briefed to the media over the weekend or e-mails that come in at one o'clock in the morning."

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Connecting Communities

Connecting Communities is an initiative aimed at empowering and strengthening community ties across the UK. Launched in partnership with The National Lottery, it aims to promote dialogue and support Parliamentarians working to nurture a more connected society.

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