Leicester City’s Mayor has warned that pubs, restaurants and hairdressers could be forced to stay closed for another 14 days due to a rise in virus cases.
Leicester’s Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby has slammed the government over their handling of the crisis in his city and has said he must “be convinced” a lockdown is required.
Public Health England (PHE) sent a report to Sir Peter overnight that he had been “cobbled together” and “readily acknowledges” virus cases are higher due to higher due to their levels of testing, he said.
The PHE report said there should be an extension for a further two weeks in Leicester, which means pubs will not be allowed to reopen on 4 July, unlike the rest of England.
There have been a record 866 new cases of coronavirus in just two weeks across the city which led to much speculation over the weekend they could be forced into a localised lockdown.
Speaking to Sky News Sir Peter said, “Despite all of our asking, (the PHE report) does not explain why they feel it is necessary to take special action here in Leicester.
“I’m not saying we shouldn’t take special action, I’m just saying that I and the people of Leicester would need to be convinced that there was something unique about our city before we agreed to an extension of the lockdown.”
The Mayor of Leicester was asked if he will continue the lockdown for a further 14 days. He replied with, “I’m saying we need to be convinced that there is a case for doing that.
“First of all, that there is something special about the spread of the virus in Leicester, we’ve got no evidence to convince us of that, and that if Leicester was to remain restricted for longer than the rest of England that that would actually make a difference to something.”
Sir Peter was then asked by Sky News if he believes pubs will reopen on 4 July. He said, “That is what happening across England on Saturday the 4th of July and they will, I expect unless we get instructions to the contrary, be happening here, as they ought to be along with the rest of England.”
The Mayor said the government are still yet to explain how the lockdown could be enforced, and which parts of the city will be affected and how it can work.
He added, that PHE sent him a document which he received at 1:04am which had “very little substance.”
Sir Peter told the BBC, “It was only last Thursday that we finally got some of the data we need but we’re still not getting all of it and it was only at 1:04 am that the recommendations for Leicester arrived in my inbox.
“What they’re suggesting is not a return to lockdown; it seems that what they’re suggesting is that we continue the present level of restriction for a further two weeks beyond 4 July.
“I’ve looked at this report and, frankly, it’s obviously been cobbled together very hastily.
“It’s superficial and its description of Leicester is inaccurate and certainly it does not provide us with the information we need if we are to remain restricted for two weeks longer than the rest of the country.”
The government were further criticised over the level of information given over the surge of infections, said Leicester public health director Ivan Browne.
Browne said, “Interestingly it’s very much around the younger working-age population and predominantly towards the east part of our city.
“I don’t think at the moment we’re seeing a single cause or a single smoking gun on this, so we need really try to dig down and find out what is going on and it’s likely to be a combination of factors.
“Information has been challenging all the way through this.”
The Prime Minister said on Monday, said that the government are “concerned about Leicester.”
Boris Johnson said, “We are concerned about Leicester, we are concerned about any local outbreak.
“I want to stress to people that we are not out of the woods yet.
“We are making these cautious, calibrated steps, we are opening as much of hospitality as we can on 4 July, opening as much of the economy as we can – some things, alas, still remain closed until they can become Covid secure.
“But to make all that possible we have to remain vigilant.
He added, a “whack-a-mole” strategy had worked in Weston-super-Mare when they had an outbreak.
“That’s the same approach that we will bring to bear in Leicester as well.”