Matt Hancock threatens ‘further action’ if people breach Leicester lockdown by travelling to neighbouring cities
The Health Secretary also rejected claims that the Government had failed to engage with local leaders on the wide-ranging restrictions. (PA)
Matt Hancock has warned of “further action” if people in Leicester ignore the new local lockdown and travel to neighbouring cities.
The Health Secretary delivered the warning after confirming ministers were reimposing wide-ranging curbs in the east midlands city as it continues to experience a high number of coronavirus cases.
And he rejected claims that local leaders had been sidelined in the Government’s decision-making process.
A raft of lockdown measures— including the shutting down of non-essential retail — will be reintroduced in Leicester from 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 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 on the Today programme, Mr Hancock said: “My heart goes out to the people of Leicester, who are not going to be able to have the same freedoms restored on Saturday that the rest of the country will.
“It's totally understandable how how upset people are in Leicester, but all I can say is that we've taken this action with the best interests of the people of Leicester right at the core of the decision-making.”
However, the Health Secretary warned the city’s residents not to make the journey to neighbouring cities such as Nottingham in a bid to avoid lockdown and make use of reopened pubs and retailers.
And he hinted at further enforcement action from the Government if people do not comply with the new curbs.
“We recommend against all-but essential travel. And of course we’re prepared to take further action if we need to,” Mr Hancock said.
Speaking to LBC, the Health Secretary pointed out that the Coronavirus Act gives ministers the legal power to impose travel restrictions, and said the Government would be prepared to act against those breaching lockdown “if we need to”.
The Health Secretary also rejected claims that the Government had failed to engage with local leaders on the wide-ranging restrictions.
Leicester’s mayor Sir Peter Soulsby on Monday said he was “deeply sceptical” of the lockdown measures, and claimed he had only been informed of the changes via an email at received at 1.04am on Monday.
But Mr Hancock told the BBC: “The data was has been shared and was shared last week, and all local directors of public health now have access to all of the data that we have.
“And, you know, I first engaged ten days ago with the mayor of Leicester. His public health team have been doing a fantastic job on the ground, but it was just clear that we also needed this this national action.
“And so I'm very glad that Sir Peter has now said that he agrees with the measures we're taking.
“It's really important that we have that national and local collaboration, working together with the public health team in Leicester.”