By Integrated Care Journal-
On Monday Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that Leicester and the “surrounding conurbation” will be placed under stricter lockdown measures. This is the first instance of a local region having stricter lockdown regulations than the rest of the country.
Mr Hancock had alluded to the announcement of Leicester's lockdown in Parliament, citing examples of previous minor isolated lockdown extensions. The Health Secretary also announced that the situation in Leicester will be reviewed fortnightly.
Mr Hancock explained to Parliament that Leicester’s infection rate was “3 times higher than the next highest city”. He went on to say that, “Leicester accounts for around 10 per cent of all positive cases in the country over the past week”, a striking statistic when considering that Leicester only accounts for 0.59 per cent of England’s population.
As part of the lockdown, non-essential retail stores that had reopened on June 15 must now close. The Health Secretary also announced that bars, restaurants, and hairdressers that had been set to reopen on the July 4, will have to remain closed for a further two weeks.
Other parts of daily life in Leicester will also be affected, citizens are being asked to only travel for essential journeys. Schools will close again on the July 2, except to vulnerable children and those of front-line staff. Mr Hancock rehashed the old slogan of “stay at home” for those in Leicester, emphasising the threat the local outbreak has on the nation as a whole.
Increased support has been promised for Leicester and the surrounding area. The Government have promised an increase in available testing kits for take-home tests and extra capacity for walk-in test centers. With the Health Minister pleading to the people of Leicester that “anyone with symptoms must come forward for a test. ”
However, the Government’s response has not gone without criticism. Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth, who represents Leicester South, criticised the Government’s “whack-a-mole” approach to the lockdown.
He said: “ to ease the lockdown smoothly then those areas that do see flare-ups will need greater speed in the response, otherwise we risk no moles getting whacked?"
Mr Ashworth further expressed his disapproval of the Governments late response to the developing situation in Leicester, stating that “We were alerted to the situation in Leicester 11 days ago. ”
The first test ahead of a second wave?
Leicester’s success in battling this localised outbreak of Covid-19 will be key for the Government to secure public confidence in its long-term capacity to deal with a second wave. The Governments “whack-a-mole” strategy will only be a success if local flare ups are successfully contained. Failure could leave questions and doubt hanging over the Government to whether or not they can successfully protect the public against a second wave.
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