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LAW & ORDER

Matt Hancock threatens to use law to force locals to stay in Leicester if new lockdown fails to drive down coronavirus

MATT Hancock has today threatened to force locals to stay in Leicester if an extended lockdown fails to drive down coronavirus cases.

The Health Secretary this morning revealed new laws were coming into force after "targeted action" had not worked - and threatened "further action" if other areas suffer similar spikes in coronavirus cases.

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Leicester lockdown: Matt Hancock revealed the police would be handed more powers to enforce a lockdown if necessary
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Leicester lockdown: Matt Hancock revealed the police would be handed more powers to enforce a lockdown if necessary
A woman walks through the deserted streets of Leicester after the lockdown was announced
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A woman walks through the deserted streets of Leicester after the lockdown was announcedCredit: EPA

Leicester was today put into the UK's first local lockdown after a worrying spike saw Public Health England identify 2,987 cases — with 866 in just two weeks.

The shocking numbers mean that the city accounts for 10 per cent of all coronavirus cases in the UK.

New local lockdown measures mean pubs and salons will not re-open on July 4 along with the rest of England.

Non-essential shops and schools will also be told to close, effectively placing Leicester back to where the rest of the UK was in May.

And Mr Hancock today announced that "in some cases" police would enforce the lockdown.

He said: "We will bring forward a legal change very shortly, in the next couple of days.

"Because some of the measures that we've had to take in Leicester will require a legal underpinning."

It comes as:

He revealed the government had been monitoring the situation in the East Midlands city, with targeted measures brought into factories and workplaces where there had been outbreaks.

But the Health Secretary explained the moves hadn't been working in Leicester, meaning that the "broader measure" now had to be taken.

Leicester mayor Sir Peter Soulsby revealed he had spoken to Prime Minister Boris Johnson on the phone today, having previously criticised the government's lockdown measures.

He told The Sun Online: "The Prime Minister called me and the first thing he said was that he ‘wishes us all well’ which I thanked him for.

"‘I told the Prime Minister it would be enormously helpful if we could have data  showing the ethnicity of people tested and their evidence work which may give us a clue to how the spread has taken place.

"He said he understood that need and would be getting that data to us. We need a good understanding whenever positive and negative tests come through."

Mr Johnson thanked the people of Leicester for their “forbearance” in dealing with the new coronavirus restrictions - saying "we cannot be prisoners of this crisis".

The drastic move will see non-essential shops closing while schools will also have to shut.

Leicester streets were today deserted after the news was announced.

The decision to close schools comes after a "unusually high" number of children under 18 tested positive for the bug.

And Mr Hancock said that while non-essential travel was not being made illegal, it would if it had to.

He continued: “We are recommending against all but essential travel to and from and within Leicester.

“We will take further action including putting in place laws if that’s necessary but I very much hope it won’t be.

“If further action is needed then of course we are willing to take it.”

STAY AWAY

Concerns have been raised that people in Leicester could try to flee the city to nearby Nottingham this weekend, where pubs and shops will re-open.

Nottinghamshire Police has said it will work with the British Transport Police to stamp out any unnecessary travel, with fines issued as a last resort.

Chief constable of Nottinghamshire Police, Craig Guildford, told Nottinghamshire Live: "If we get any intelligence from Leicester such as a minibus or coach travelling to Nottingham then we will act accordingly.

"British Transport Police will be doing the same.

"You are still allowed to travel to get to work, but they will be looking for a breach of the guidance such as going shopping or going on a night out."

Mr Guildford added, however, that the force is "not anticipating a rise of people from Leicester" this weekend.

Non-essential shops will shut today
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Non-essential shops will shut todayCredit: EPA
The health secretary said that lockdown measures would be enforced 'in some cases' in Leicester
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The health secretary said that lockdown measures would be enforced 'in some cases' in LeicesterCredit: EPA
Authorities are looking into the cause of the spike in Leicester
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Authorities are looking into the cause of the spike in LeicesterCredit: EPA
A cleaner is seen spraying down the streets of the city
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A cleaner is seen spraying down the streets of the city Credit: EPA
Hatt Hancock announced the drastic measures
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Hatt Hancock announced the drastic measuresCredit: EPA
A woman walking past a sign warning about social distancing
A woman walking past a sign warning about social distancing
Non-essential shops and schools will have to shut again
Non-essential shops and schools will have to shut again
The border showing how Leicester has been put into lockdown
The border showing how Leicester has been put into lockdown
Bars had been preparing to reopen on Saturday
Bars had been preparing to reopen on Saturday

Jeremy Hunt warned today that local lockdowns would become the "new normal" until a vaccine is found.

Rates of infection in the city are now three times that of the town with the next highest rate.

Ten per cent of tests are now coming back positive - five times the national rate.

Officials have now asked for more time to get the disease under control as they scramble to understand why Leicester has been so badly affected.

There have been outbreaks in food production sites, clothing factories and in large multi-generational households.

About 28 per cent of Leicester’s population is of Indian heritage, and a further 21 per cent are from black or Asian backgrounds.

Language barriers, high levels of diabetes and poverty may have played a part in the new surge.

Mr Hancock told the BBC that he was "familiar" with potential reasons, adding: "People will find them intuitive."

Today's announcement also saw the Health Secretary forced to defend the Government's "whack-a-mole" strategy for tackling outbreaks.

He said: "The strategy is to allow for the opening up of the rest of the country, giving people their freedoms back where it is safe to do so.

"But we also need alongside that to take local action where there is a specific flare-up."

The Health Secretary also confirmed that a football match between Leicester City and Crystal Palace would go ahead this weekend.

Health minister Nadine Dorries tweeted: "Leicester boundary decision will be taken by local council leaders working with (Department of Health) and others on the ground who know Leicester street by street - using infection rate information provided by the centre.

 

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"This is the essence of how local outbreak management plans will work."

Adverts in multiple languages on TV, radio and street signs will encourage people to stay at home.

Officials will review the situation in two weeks and decide to ease, maintain or tighten the controls.

Royal Logistics Corps soldiers man a Covid-19 testing station at Leicester’s Evington Leisure Centre where there has been a spike in cases
Royal Logistics Corps soldiers man a Covid-19 testing station at Leicester’s Evington Leisure Centre where there has been a spike in cases
Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby has pledged to minimise the time these restrictions need to be in place
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Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby has pledged to minimise the time these restrictions need to be in placeCredit: PA:Press Association
Matt Hancock announces Leicester will stay in lockdown with non-essential shops to close and pubs to stay shut

 

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