The rate of coronavirus infections in Leicester has fallen since the city was placed in a local lockdown, but the date for it to be lifted has yet to be decided on, the government has revealed.
The decline in the seven-day infection rate in the city underlined the importance of the “difficult but vital” decision to impose a lockdown, health secretary Matt Hancock told the Commons on Tuesday.
Despite the falling cases, however, Hancock refused to say when the lockdown could be lifted – instead promising to provide an update later this month.
He said: “We took, last week, difficult but vital decisions about Leicester. Since then we have been working with Leicester and Leicestershire and I am pleased to say that, together, we have brought down the seven-day infection rate from 135 to 117 cases per 100,000 people.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth – a Leicester MP – asked Hancock what would trigger the lifting of the lockdown in the city.
He said: “What is the exit strategy for Leicester? How does an area that has gone into a local lockdown escape from a local lockdown?”
Mr Hancock said 14 days of data were needed and the next steps would be announced on 18 July.
He would not give a specific figure for lifting the lockdown “because both the level and the rate of change matters”.
“If the level were lower but it was going up, that could be a worse situation than a higher level that is under control and falling,” he added.
Leicester's local lockdown was announced by health secretary on the evening of 29 June.
Lockdown restrictions were subsequently tightened in parts of the city and nearby suburbs, with non-essential shops ordered to close and people urged not to travel in or out of the area.
According to NHS Digital, Leicester's rate of new COVID-19 cases has dropped to 106.4 cases per 100,000 in the seven days to 4 July. It is the lowest level since 101.1 cases per 100,000 were recorded in the seven days to 11 June. The rate peaked in the seven days to 25 June, when 159.1 cases per 100,000 were recorded.
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