Leicester’s mayor has said the city’s coronavirus lockdown is “no longer justified” and accused the government of not releasing testing data in time to prevent it.
Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Sir Peter Soulsby said he has only just been provided with accurate local data for the Leicester outbreak and that if it had been provided earlier the lockdown could have been prevented.
“If we had known that weeks ago we could’ve actually dealt with it at that time and prevented this lockdown,” he said.
“It’s very clear when you look at the data that it’s a couple of areas of the city that have got a higher-than-the average transmission of the virus, and certainly the way in which the city has been locked down in its entirety, and indeed beyond our boundary, is not justified.”
The localised data, which shows the number of new cases in the city is now falling, reveals the outbreak in Leicester is confined to a relatively small area.
Sir Peter said that “after weeks of asking”, local officials now have data that shows “probably only 10% of the city ... has a higher transmission rate.
“We should have been able to know this many weeks ago and then we would have focused on those areas preventing transmission there.
“What we do know now, we are able to identify where the positive tests are coming from and at last that these areas we can focus on.”
When asked how he would deal with those particularly affected areas, he said the authority can persuade people in those parts to abide by the rules very strictly and making them understand that they are at risk.
“The government coming in and imposing this lockdown is not a good helpful way to deal with the transmission of the virus,” he said.
Restrictions were increased in Leicester on 29 June following a spike in COVID-19 cases in the area, with 944 new cases identified in two weeks.
Health secretary Matt Hancock told parliament non-essential retailers in Leicester would have to shut up shop the following day, 30 June, just two weeks after they had reopened their doors following months in lockdown.
It was agreed by the Department of Health early in July that local authorities would be given access to localised data about the number of people testing positive for coronavirus in their areas.
The agreement gives individual councils access to a digital dashboard that shows test results down to a postcode level.
The new data, released on Monday, suggests rates of new infections in Leicester have fallen from their recent peak, but are not declining steadily.
The equivalent of 115.4 cases per 100,000 people were detected in the seven days to 9 July, according to the latest figures from NHS England.
This is down slightly on 119.9 cases per 100,000 people in the seven days to 2 July.
Rolling data for the seven-day rate of new cases in the city shows a peak of 159.1 cases per 100,000 people in the seven days to 25 June.
Since then the seven-day rate has gone down, though it is not dropping steadily.
For example, the rate jumped from 115.1 for the seven days to 4 July to 127.5 for the seven days to 5 July.
This kind of fluctuation in the figures could be due to the increased level of testing, which will be picking up more cases than would otherwise have been detected.
Oadby & Wigston, which is also included in the lockdown, has seen its rate fall from 63.1 in the seven days to June 25 to 31.5 in the seven days to July 9.
The latest figures are a snapshot based on the data currently available from Public Health England showing the number of people with coronavirus identified through an NHS lab (“pillar 1” of the government’s testing programme) or from commercial swab testing (“pillar 2”).
The figures are updated and revised at the end of each day. Data for the most recent dates – 10 July to 12 July – has been excluded from these calculations as it is incomplete and likely to change.
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