Health Secretary Matt Hancock is to meet leaders in the city of Leicester, amid UK plans to extend a lockdown in the area after a surge in Covid-19 cases, prompting anger from the city mayor.
A major relaxation of lockdown measures is scheduled to come into effect on July 4 in England in a bid to kickstart the economy, but the city of Leicester is facing the prospect of becoming the only place in the country to see its pubs, restaurants, hotels and cinemas remain closed for a further two weeks after a spike in coronavirus cases.
Leicester Mayor Peter Soulsby confirmed to Sky News on Monday that he had received an email with recommendations from the government overnight, suggesting the city keep present restrictions in place. The city has recorded 866 of its 2,987 Covid-19 cases in the last fortnight.
Soulsby lashed out at a report given to him by government officials, insisting that it had “obviously been cobbled together very hastily,” and provided “no evidence” to suggest that the city remaining in lockdown longer than the rest of the country “would make a difference.”
The Labour mayor also had concerns about who would ultimately have the power to make sure restrictions stay in place in the city, slamming the “intensely frustrating” process of getting health information from the government.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said the UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock would be meeting leaders from Leicester in central England on Monday afternoon to “discuss the situation.”
The prospect of UK authorities trying to implement a local lockdown has prompted ridicule on social media, with many people doubting that it could ever work in practice. One commenter referenced the scandal involving Johnson’s advisor Dominic Cummings – who justified breaking travel rules to check his eyesight – and asked the UK PM whether there would be a “travel corridor” to Barnard Castle.
A humorous gif was tweeted showing what a local lockdown may look like for Leicester, using TV series The Simpsons as inspiration.
Another commenter claimed the only way it could work was if “armed guards” surrounded the city and suggested that people who worked outside of the lockdown area may face a dilemma. Some suggested that only “ultra-authoritarian / militarised states” states could ever implement such a plan, and highlighted Italy as an example of where it has failed.
Responding to reports that a local lockdown could be enforced, Johnson warned that the UK is not out of the woods yet, saying “We are concerned about Leicester, we are concerned about any local outbreak.”
He said a local “whack-a-mole” strategy used to curb flare-ups in Weston-super-Mare in south-west England and around doctors’ surgeries in London would be “brought to bear in Leicester as well.”