Reacting to the new lockdown restrictions in Leicester, Nick Rushton, the leader of Leicestershire County Council, said:
Protecting residents is our main concern and we’re working closely with Leicester City Council and the Government to bring down the number of cases.
Clearly coronavirus does not adhere to lines on a map. And although county rates are below the national and regional averages, we can’t be complacent and it makes sense to step up restrictions in areas closer to the city.
This is the first localised lockdown on this scale and undoubtedly there will be issues to iron out.
I understand this is disappointing news for residents, parents of schoolchildren and businesses when most of the country is opening back up but it’s crucial that people follow the latest advice.
Observing social distancing, hand-washing, wearing a face mask where required and getting tested if you have symptoms remain vital.
Our actions play a key role in shaping what happens next and I encourage people to heed the advice and play their part in helping to save lives and livelihoods.
Leicester’s mayor ‘sceptical’ about Government figures which led them to local lockdown:
Reacting to the new lockdown restrictions set to be imposed on Leicester, the city’s mayor Sir Peter Soulsby told BBC Radio Leicester: “They’ve gone further than we anticipated they might.
“They are clearly determined to start with the maximum, as it were, to see how it works and then perhaps to use the learning from this in other areas I have no doubt will follow.
“I can understand it from their perspective – they are entirely convinced that the level of the transmission of the disease in Leicester is at a higher level than I think the figures show.
“Nonetheless I can understand why they want to err on the safe side… I can see where they’re coming from even thought I still have some scepticism about the figures that led them to this.”
Matt Hancock said he was committing to publish data at “as local a level as possible” to help more people analyse it and combat the virus.
Conservative MP James Sunderland (Bracknell) said the Government is right to ease lockdown rules nationally, adding: “It’s also dispiriting to see packed beaches, passengers without face masks on public transport and other mass gatherings.
“Given the Government will no doubt get blamed for any second spike, can I ask the Secretary of State how serious he is about imposing similar measures more widely beyond Leicester?”
Mr Hancock replied: “I think people will have seen from the action we’ve taken today and announced tonight that although I don’t want to take this local action, we’re perfectly prepared to take it if that is what’s needed to control this virus.”
Mr Hancock said exact details of which wards in Leicestershire are included in the new lockdown measures will be published “imminently”.
Tory MP for South Leicestershire Alberto Costa said: “Will he also explain what impact areas outside the city of Leicester… because he keeps mentioning Leicester, but what areas in Leicestershire have been impacted by this statement?”
Mr Hancock replied: “Yes, absolutely. We will be publishing the exact details of which wards are included in these measures imminently and that is a decision that is being taken… by Leicestershire County Council along with PHE.”
The SNP’s Patricia Gibson (North Ayrshire and Arran) said: “Can he (Mr Hancock) confirm that in local lockdowns after August 1, wherever they are required, 80% of furlough support will be available in order to assist with lockdown compliance which is so important to public health?”
Mr Hancock replied: “Well of course, as we move from a national lockdown towards local lockdowns we are going to have to take more specific action. For the time being, and for Leicester, the existing furlough scheme of course exists.”
Matt Hancock said the risk of Covid-19 being transmitted by children is the reason why schools in Leicester will be closed.
Conservative former minister Nusrat Ghani asked in the Commons: “(Mr Hancock) said that children in Leicester were particularly vulnerable. This is not normally the norm for Covid, so is this a separate strand of Covid or can (Mr Hancock) share why the youngsters in Leicester are so vulnerable?”
Mr Hancock responded: “To be clear, children have very, very low risk of suffering from Covid themselves but we have been looking at the proportion of children who have tested positive and therefore may be transmitting the disease.
“The challenge with this disease with children, thankfully, is it has a very, very low risk to any individual child in terms of them becoming ill or worse, but it still transmits through children and that’s the reason that we’ve taken the decision that we have on schools in Leicester.”
Matt Hancock said that the Government is “still getting to the bottom of” the potential reasons why the outbreak in Leicester has occurred.
Conservative former minister Nusrat Ghani asked in the Commons:
Can (Mr Hancock) share what factors lie behind the infection rate being so high in Leicester, (and) whether those factors will be shared with local resilience forums?
Mr Hancock responded:
Of course there are many reasons and potential reasons why this outbreak has occurred in the way it has in Leicester, we’re still getting to the bottom of those.
But I absolutely undertake to then ensure that other directors of public health in local areas understand those reasons so we can get to the bottom of them.
For instance, we’re doing work specifically on food processing factories which round the world seem to have a higher rate including, not only in America, in Germany, also in North Wales, and of course there is a challenge in the community to ensure that we understand properly the origins and the spread of this outbreak in Leicester.
Concerns raised concerns over elderly and vulnerable getting access to testing kits.
Conservative former minister Greg Clark raised concerns about a delay in ensuring elderly people and those with learning and physical disabilities living in supported and sheltered accommodation can access testing kits.
The Science and Technology Committee chairman said Matt Hancock had pledged to help on June 8, adding in the Commons: “How can we have confidence in a speedy and targeted approach to testing and tracing if those of great vulnerability still can’t be tested three weeks after a clear commitment was given to grip the matter?”
The Health Secretary replied: “We are now rolling out testing to the settings he describes and this will be rolled out over the coming three to four weeks to coincide with the time it’ll take us to build that capacity to roll out.
“It’s very important the testing is where it needs to be and secondly we do that on the basis of clinical need, which is why we went for supporting testing in nursing homes and residential homes first.”
Liz Kendall, Labour MP for Leicester West, tweeted: “Getting on top of the COVID-19 spike in Leicester & protecting public health must be our first priority.
“I’m extremely concerned about children missing school & local businesses & jobs. But if we don’t bring infection rates down it will be worse for us all in the long run.
“We can and we will beat this virus by working together. I urge the Government to ensure Leicester gets all the resources we need including more testing kits & facilities, promoting health messages in all languages & more inspections/support in workplaces, if that is required
“Lessons must also be learnt from the handling of Leicester spike. Govt was too slow getting Council even basic postcode data which is essential to tackling the problem.
“And over last few days there have been off the record briefings leaving people anxious & confused
“These issues must be addressed. Because this won’t be the last local outbreak and we need a faster and clearer strategy to grip problems and ensure we keep everyone healthy and safe”
SNP health spokeswoman Dr Philippa Whitford urged the Government to share testing data with local authorities.
The Secretary of State tends to focus on the number of tests but does he accept its actually testing and isolation that stops the spread of the virus?
So how does he expect local public health teams to identify an emerging outbreak if they cannot access accurate data?
Matt Hancock replied:
I can commit to the House that we are going to publish all of the data on test results in order to ensure that the wider public, as well as directors of public health, are able to access this data.
Former Tory health secretary Jeremy Hunt expressed concerns that antibody testing – which shows if someone has previously had Covid-19 – was being used on NHS staff.
The chairman of the Commons Health and Social Care Select Committee added: “Given that it takes up to three weeks for an antibody to show, how can a regime that is meant to stop the asymptomatic transmission of the virus to patients and colleagues before they manage to transmit it possibly work?”
Responding, Mr Hancock said: “That regime is the one recommended by clinicians. The Siren study not only starts with an antibody test but then has regular swab testing, including at weekly frequency within it.
“So you get the regular testing to find out if people have the virus, also the test at the start to find out if they have had it.”
Matt Hancock said Leicester has three times the number of coronavirus cases than the city with the next highest total.
Mr Hancock, replying to the shadow health secretary, said: “He asks if the testing units can be there for the long-term. They will absolutely be there for as long as they are needed.
“He asks for the provision of home testing kits, I will take that away, but I can commit to him that we will increase the number of home testing kits available for Leicester.”
He added: “Of course I appreciate these decisions, especially the closure of schools, will have an impact on working parents. Childcare of course is a reason for essential travel and I hope that, as during the broader lockdown across the country, people will be able to make arrangements for childcare.”
On other areas which also have a high intensity of cases, Mr Hancock said “we are of course looking across the country at the cities where this virus remains higher than elsewhere”.
He added: “However, the number of cases in Leicester is three times higher than the next highest city.”
Matt Hancock added in the Commons:
These actions are profoundly in the national interest too because it’s in everyone’s interests that we control the virus as locally as possible.
Local action like this is an important tool in our armoury to deal with outbreaks while we get the country back on its feet.
The Health Secretary said reducing social contact will reduce the spread of Covid-19, adding: “Precise, targeted actions like these will give the virus nowhere to hide and help us defeat this invisible killer.”
Mr Hancock announced in the Commons further measures in Leicester to help tackle the outbreak, including the setting up of a walk-in testing centre for those with coronavirus symptoms.
He said: “Anyone in Leicester with symptoms must come forward for a test.”
Shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth, who represents Leicester South, said Prime Minister Boris Johnson has spoken about a “whack-a-mole” strategy to combat coronavirus before adding in the Commons:
We were alerted to the situation in Leicester 11 days ago and now we’ve got tonight from the Secretary of State the whack-a-mole strategy.
Doesn’t he agree that if we’re as a nation 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?
Jonathan Ashworth said that people impacted by the Leicester lockdown need “clarity” and not briefings from “over-eager advisers”.
The shadow health secretary told the Commons: “People in Leicester were concerned, anxious and scared to read in the newspapers and see on the TV screens yesterday news that we were going into some form of lockdown based on anonymous briefings.
“Grandparents who had recently formed bubbles to see their grandchildren were asking me whether they had to withdraw again, parents were asking about whether they could send their children to school today. Those shielding were particularly worried.”
Mr Ashworth added: “I understand that things get leaked and so on, I’ve been around politics a long time, I understand that.
“But can I just urge (Mr Hancock) to appreciate that something with this seriousness and sensitivity, people need crystal-clear clarity and not briefings perhaps from over-eager advisers.”
Jonathan Ashworth said if restrictions have to be reimposed elsewhere then “so be it”.
The shadow health secretary said in the Commons: “The World Health Organisation tonight has warned that this virus is still spreading at speed and that those countries who have opened up are beginning to see a resurgence.
“The virus remains deadly, it causes significant long-term harm and still demands a resolute response. If that means restrictions have to remain in place, whether in Leicester or elsewhere, or if restrictions have to be reimposed, whether in Leicester or elsewhere, then so be it.”
Responding, Matt Hancock said “within two hours of the final decisions being taken I’ve come to this House”.
He added: “He asks quite rightly about the powers that will underpin the decisions that I’ve taken. They will be brought forward with a statutory instrument very shortly and I absolutely commit to keeping the House updated on the two-week review for whether we can lift some of the measures.”
Matt Hancock said the measures will be kept under review and will not be kept in place “any longer than is necessary”, adding: “We’ll review if we can release any of the measures in two weeks.
“These Leicester-specific measures will apply not just to the city of Leicester but also the surrounding conurbation including, for example, Oadby, Birstall and Glenfield.
“I know that this is a worrying time for people living in Leicester and I want you to know you have our full support.
“We do not take these decisions lightly but with the interests of the people of Leicester in our hearts,” the Health Secretary added.
Matt Hancock has advised people from Leicester to stay at home as much as they can while the local lockdown measures continue.
Mr Hancock told MPs: “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.
“We’ll monitor closely adhering to social distancing rules and we’ll take further steps if that is what’s necessary.”
Mr Hancock said the easing of the lockdown planned for the rest of England on July 4 cannot happen in Leicester because of rising cases.
He said: “Given the growing outbreak in Leicester we cannot recommend that the easing of the national lockdown set to take place on July 4 happens in Leicester.”
Read the full story here:
Leicester will be placed under a localised lockdown as the city battles a surge in coronavirus cases, Matt Hancock has confirmed.
Speaking in the Commons on Monday, the Health Secretary said that non-essential shops will have to close from Tuesday to help contain the outbreak.
Schools which have welcomed back pupils in Leicester after rules were eased will now have to shut from Thursday.