Spike in cases sees Le­ices­ter face strict new rules to fight sec­ond Covid wave

Daily Mail - - Front Page - By Andy Dolan

LE­ICES­TER was plunged into Bri­tain’s first lo­cal coro­n­avirus lock­down last night.

Non- es­sen­tial shops that re­opened a fort­night ago will have to close again to­day and schools must shut once more to most pupils from Thurs­day.

The na­tion­wide eas­ing of re­stric­tions this Satur­day – in­clud­ing the re­open­ing of pubs, hair sa­lons and restau­rants – will not ex­tend to the city.

Res­i­dents were ad­vised to stay at home as much as pos­si­ble and warned against all but es­sen­tial travel. The dras­tic move fol­lows a spike in Covid-19 cases in Le­ices­ter, which has a pop­u­la­tion of more than 300,000.

Busi­ness own­ers last night spoke of their de­spair at the dev­as­tat­ing news, which will cost them count­less thou­sands of pounds.

Health Sec­re­tary Matt Han­cock up­dated MPs on the mea­sures in the House of Com­mons last night.

He said: ‘Hav­ing taken clin­i­cal ad­vice on the ac­tions nec­es­sary and dis­cussed them with the lo­cal team in Le­ices­ter and Le­ices­ter­shire, we have made some dif­fi­cult but im­por­tant

de­ci­sions. We’ve de­cided that from to­mor­row, non- es­sen­tial re­tail will have to close and as chil­dren have been par­tic­u­larly im­pacted by this out­break, schools will also need to close from Thurs­day, stay­ing open for vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren and chil­dren of crit­i­cal work­ers as they did through­out.

‘Un­for­tu­nately, the clin­i­cal ad­vice is that the re­lax­ation of shield­ing mea­sures due on July 6 can­not now take place in Le­ices­ter.

‘We rec­om­mend to peo­ple in Le­ices­ter, stay at home as much as you can, and we rec­om­mend against all but es­sen­tial travel to, from and within Le­ices­ter.’

Boris John­son last night convened an emer­gency meet­ing to draw up a plan for tack­ling the out­break in the city. It was at­tended by a string of se­nior min­is­ters, in­clud­ing Michael Gove, Priti Patel, Matt Han­cock, Gavin Wil­liamson and Robert Jen­rick.

Of­fi­cials stressed that mini-lock­downs at GP surg­eries, hos­pi­tals and fac­to­ries had been suc­cess­ful in stamp­ing out flare-ups but ac­knowl­edged the sit­u­a­tion in Le­ices­ter was more se­ri­ous. As Mr John­son pre­pared to make a ma­jor speech to­day promis­ing a ‘New Deal’ to re­build Bri­tain:

An­other 25 peo­ple died from coro­n­avirus, tak­ing the to­tal UK toll to 43,575;

Fig­ures re­vealed that at the height of the pan­demic twice as many de­men­tia pa­tients died than in nor­mal years;

The plan to cre­ate ‘air bridges’ for hol­i­days abroad suf­fered a set­back as Greece ex­tended its ban on UK flights un­til July 15;

A World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion chief warned a vac­cine should not be seen as a ‘sil­ver bul­let’.

The new re­stric­tions in Le­ices­ter came af­ter data showed a Covid-19 surge in some ar­eas of the city ear­lier this month.

It was al­most busi­ness as usual yes­ter­day with the main thor­ough­fares, out­door mar­ket and the Highcross mall all busy with shop­pers. But as the shock an­nounce­ment sank in last night, pub­li­cans and other busi­ness own­ers who were pre­par­ing to re­open this Satur­day lined up to con­demn the re­turn to a more strin­gent lock­down.

Katie Ka­ton, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Ge­orge’s Hair­dress­ing, which has two branches in the city cen­tre, said: ‘We have got over 100 staff split be­tween th­ese two sa­lons and a third busi­ness un­der a dif­fer­ent name.

‘We’ve or­dered PPE for them, we’ve set up screens in the sa­lons and we are booked out for the next three weeks. It has cost up to £10,000 to pre­pare the sa­lons – mainly the cost of the screens, but there are other things around it such as mar­ket­ing videos for so­cial me­dia and deep clean­ing.

‘This is dev­as­tat­ing news be­cause we can’t just push those clients back a cou­ple of weeks. It seems that ev­ery­thing is up in the air.

‘We are go­ing to have a lot of up­set cus­tomers and a lot of up­set staff – many of whom were de­pend­ing on that money they were due to start earn­ing.

‘ If it wasn’t for the fur­lough scheme we’d have gone bust al­ready af­ter 47 years in busi­ness. But we have big sa­lons and big over­heads and we can’t carry on like this for ever. We are a cash busi­ness.’

Moira Ros­siter, 60, land­lady of the Sir Robert Peel pub in the city, said: ‘It’s re­ally dif­fi­cult news to take, not just for pubs and restau­rants but for all busi­nesses which have been pre­par­ing hard for this.

‘We’ve or­dered our beer in, we’ve spent hours work­ing out seat­ing plans and lay­outs. Our in­sur­ance wouldn’t cover us for the first lock­down so it won’t cover us for this.’

She said she feared Le­ices­ter was be­ing used as a lock­down ‘guinea pig’ for the rest of the coun­try.

Shabir Jakhura, owner of Jak’s Sta­tion­ers on bustling Nar­bor­ough Road – an ar­te­rial route into the city – was one of those shop­keep­ers who re­opened a fort­night ago.

Re­act­ing to the news that he will now have to shut his doors again, he said: ‘Oh God. This is go­ing to be re­ally dif­fi­cult. Busi­ness had slowly been pick­ing up since we re­opened.

‘Ev­ery­body ac­cepts that so­cial dis­tanc­ing is the new nor­mal and I don’t see why that can’t con­tinue, with the shops stay­ing open. To make us close again is go­ing to be re­ally tough.’

Mr Han­cock’s an­nounce­ment came in re­sponse to 866 pos­i­tive coro­n­avirus cases in the city over the two weeks up un­til June 23 – al­most a third of Le­ices­ter’s 2,987 to­tal since the pan­demic be­gan.

The lock­down was backed by Le­ices­ter East MP Clau­dia Webbe, who said there was a ‘ per­fect storm’ of poverty, pos­i­tive tests and higher eth­nic di­ver­sity in a city where close to a third of the pop­u­la­tion are of In­dian her­itage, and a fur­ther one in five are from black or Asian back­grounds.

A num­ber of re­views, in­clud­ing by the Of­fice for Na­tional Sta­tis­tics and Pub­lic Health Eng­land, have con­cluded that peo­ple from black and eth­nic mi­nor­ity back­grounds are ‘ dis­pro­por­tion­ately’ dy­ing with coro­n­avirus.

New re­stric­tions: A woman at­tends a mo­bile Covid-19 test­ing cen­tre in Le­ices­ter yes­ter­day

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