The Government says it is supporting officials in Leicester in their battle against Covid-19 after a report the city could be subject to Britain’s first local lockdown this week.
The Sunday Times said the Government was preparing to impose the lockdown “within days” after a surge in coronavirus cases in the city.
The paper said Health Secretary Matt Hancock had been examining legal aspects of the shutdown after it was revealed 658 new cases were recorded in the Leicester area in the two weeks to June 16.
The risk of catching #coronavirus is much less, if you’re 2 metres away from an infected person than if you’re 1 metre away.
— Leicester City Council (@Leicester_News) June 27, 2020
The Department of Health and Social Care on Sunday stopped short of saying a local lockdown was likely for Leicester, but acknowledged the city was an area of concern as it urged residents in the city to be vigilant against the virus.
“We are supporting the council and local partners in Leicester to help prevent further transmission of the virus,” the spokesman said in a statement.
“We have deployed four mobile testing sites and made thousands of home testing kits available, to ensure anyone in the area who needs a test can get one.
“NHS Test and Trace will contact anyone testing positive to help them identify their recent contacts and advise who may have been near to someone with the virus to stay at home to prevent the spread.
“We urge the people of Leicester to continue to practice social distancing, wash their hands regularly, get tested immediately if they have symptoms and follow the advice they receive if contacted by NHS Test and Trace. This advice is there to protect communities and save lives.”
The Sunday Times said Leicester’s rise in cases follows an outbreak in food production plants in the area and reports of large crowds gathering outside takeaway restaurants.
Keith Neal, emeritus professor of the epidemiology of infectious diseases at the University of Nottingham, said defining the lockdown area would be “one of the biggest problems” as well as making it understandable for people.
He said: “Local authority boundaries can run down the middle of the street with one side in one local authority and the opposite another.
“Urban sprawl has allowed towns and cities to expand resulting in these areas often joining other areas who identify differently and do not see themselves as part of the expanding town or city.
“Locking down at the regional level would be seen as unfair or worse as Leicester City has really very little to do with rural Lincolnshire.
“People do not identify with their regional boundaries and many would not actually know where they are.”