Coronavirus: What is a local lockdown and how will it work in Leicester?

Ross McGuinness
·5-min read
Members of the public on Gallowtree Gate in Leicester City Centre as speculation grows about a localised lockdown in Leicester
People wear face masks on Gallowtree Gate in Leicester city centre, as a localised lockdown is introduced there. (PA)

Stricter lockdown measures came into force in Leicester on Tuesday following a surge in coronavirus cases in the city.

Health secretary Matt Hancock announced on Monday evening that Leicester would go back into lockdown.

He said the city accounted for 10% of all positive COVID-19 cases in England in the past week. It has three times more cases than the city with the next highest total, Hancock added.

It means a return to more stringent measures, while the planned easing of restrictions earmarked for the rest of the country on Saturday will not take place there.

On Tuesday, Hancock said the government will change the law in the next “day or two” in order to enforce Leicester’s lockdown.

Members of the military set up a walk-in mobile Covid-19 testing centre at Spinney Hill Park in Leicester as the city may be the first UK location to be subjected to a local lockdown after a spike in coronavirus cases.
Members of the military set up a walk-in mobile COVID-19 testing centre at Spinney Hill Park in Leicester on Monday. (PA)

What will close in Leicester’s local lockdown?

From Tuesday, all non-essential shops will have to shut while schools will close their doors to most pupils from Thursday.

Schools will stay open for vulnerable youngsters and children of critical workers as they did before and people will be able to travel for childcare.

Hancock said there had been "a number of positive cases in the under-18s" detected through coronavirus testing in the city.

All but essential travel to, from and within the city is being discouraged, while residents are being told to stay at home unless absolutely necessary.

What area is affected?

As well as the city of Leicester, which has a population of about 330,000, the "surrounding conurbation" will also be affected.

There had been widespread confusion over exactly which towns and villages in Leicestershire are included in the lockdown.

Leicester City Council tweeted on Tuesday morning: "We haven't got all the information we need yet about the #LeicesterLockdown."

Leicester City Council tweeted a map showing the lockdown area (PA)
Leicestershire County Council tweeted a map showing the lockdown area (PA)

It published a list of affected areas, including Braunstone Town (including Fosse Park), Glenfield, Glen Parva, Leicester Forest East (east of the M1) and Thorpe Astley.

It also said Birstall, Thurmaston and all areas of Oadby and Wigston were included.

The council later published a map of the lockdown area.

Mental health minister Nadine Dorries tweeted: “Leicester boundary decision will be taken by local council leaders working with DPH (local director of public health) and others on the ground who know Leicester street by street – using infection rate information provided by the centre.

“This is the essence of how local outbreak management plans will work.”

How will the lockdown in Leicester be enforced?

Hancock said on Tuesday the government will change the law to enforce the local lockdown in Leicester. He told BBC Breakfast the law will be changed in the next “day or two”.

He also told Sky News: “We will be bringing forward a legal change very shortly, in the next couple of days, because some of the measures that we’ve unfortunately had to take in Leicester will require legal underpinning.”

Hancock added that “in some cases” the lockdown would be enforced by the police.

Social distancing advice on a sign in Leicester, as the city�s spike in coronavirus cases has sparked a report that it may be the first UK location to be subjected to a district lockdown.
A local lockdown has been imposed on Leicester and its surrounding area. (PA)

What support is available?

The government said extra money is being sent to Leicester and Leicestershire councils "to support them to enhance their communications" as well as making support available for people who need to self-isolate.

Authorities will also help workplaces with coronavirus clusters to "implement more stringently the COVID-secure guidelines".

Hancock said: "I just want to reiterate to those who are in Leicester right now… that the furlough scheme is in existence and it works now in the same way that it's worked across the country."

He said the government is "still getting to the bottom of" the reasons why the outbreak in Leicester has occurred.

What will happen on Saturday?

Lockdown measures are being eased across England on 4 July, with pubs, restaurants, cinemas, cafes and theatres allowed to reopen.

However, because of its regional surge of coronavirus cases, Leicester will not emerge from the lockdown with the rest of the country.

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Plans for the relaxation of shielding measures from 6 July, allowing the most vulnerable people to spend more time outside, will also not go ahead in Leicester.

Hancock said the local lockdown measures in Leicester will be reviewed in two weeks.

He said the measures would not stay in place "any longer than is necessary”.

What is a local lockdown?

The lockdown in Leicester is part of what prime minister Boris Johnson has called a “whack-a-mole strategy” to crack down on regional coronavirus cases surges.

Hancock said last month there would be “local lockdowns in the future”, with the Joint Biosecurity Centre having a “response function” that could address local spikes in infections, in partnership with local public health agencies.

Hancock said that under local lockdowns schools, businesses or workplaces could be closed in areas with a high prevalence of infection.

What powers do councils have?

Council and public health leaders have said local authorities have the powers needed to tackle outbreaks in schools, businesses or care homes.

But Greg Fell, Association of Directors of Public Health (ADPH) board member, told a committee of MPs this month that they did not have the power to shut down local areas or whole cities.

Any powers to lock down communities would need to be conferred to local leaders, he said.

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