Leicester lockdown could end today after cases finally drop

Leicester could see its lockdown restrictions relaxed today after a drop in the rate of coronavirus infections seven weeks after strict measures came into place.

The East Midlands city – the first in the UK to be put into a local lockdown after a spike in cases – will reportedly see a majority of its rules eased by health secretary Matt Hancock.

On June 30, Leicester went back into lockdown after it was revealed that the Covid-19 infection rate had spiralled to 135 cases per 100,000 people.

Following seven-weeks of strict social distancing measures, cases have now halved to 67 cases per 100,000.

It had been expected that the Department for Health and Social Care would make an announcement on the relaxation of measures yesterday but that was delayed by ‘a blip’ in infection numbers.

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As things stand casinos, skating rinks, bowling alleys, indoor play areas including soft play areas, exhibition centres and conference halls are all closed.

Indoor performances and close contact services – like eyebrow threading or make-up application – remain banned.

Wedding receptions and celebrations for up to 30 people are also not allowed in Leicester, while gyms, swimming pools, dance studios and sports courts must stay shut.

People from different households must not meet in a private home or garden and people living in the city are banned from travelling outside of the protected area.

So far there has been no official word from the DHSC but a health source told The Sun it ‘looks set to happen’ today as the numbers continue to drop.

Continued fears about the transmission of the virus between households is likely to mean that the ban on meeting others inside homes and gardens remains in place.

When the local lockdown was announced in June, Leicester’s mayor Sir Peter Soulsby described it as a scandal.

He said the decision had been made to keep restrictions in force across the Labour-run city of Leicester and Liberal Democrat-controlled Oadby and Wigson.

Mr Soulsby said: ‘They have chosen to focus on the city geographical area – effectively the area of the county that votes Labour, and that’s just scandalous.

‘If they were going to alter the boundary, they should have gone down to the area that they now know where the virus is. They have left two areas in there – one that has a Liberal Democrat council, the other that has a Labour mayor.

‘The fact is they have focused in a way that is clearly party political and that’s not a way to deal with the virus.

‘That’s not a way to deal with the people who will be very angry and very frustrated that they are being punished for the way in which they voted.’

The move comes as public health officials warned that Birmingham could soon be added to the list of cities being placed on the local lockdown list after seeing cases double.

Director of public health for Birmingham City Council, Dr Justin Varney, told BirminghamLive: ‘We could very easily be in a situation like we have seen in Leicester and Greater Manchester.

‘Looking at the national pattern, we have now overtaken Sandwell (which was on a list of most concerning locations) – it would not surprise me if Birmingham joins that list.’

According to Dr Varney, at the start of August the city had an infection rate of around 12 cases per 100,000 of the population. Last week the number rose to 24 cases per 100,000 people and now stands at ‘around 30’.

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham this week said he believed restrictions across the north could be eased in just days.

Areas in Greater Manchester, East Lancashire and West Yorkshire covering some 4.5 million people have been under stricter curbs than the rest of the UK for the past two weeks.

‘Our cases are flattening – with one exception, Oldham – and we are starting to turn the tide in most of our boroughs. The hope is, maybe we will have a better time ahead of us,’ Mr Burnham told the Sunday Mirror.

Data published by Public Health England showed Northampton had the highest rate of coronavirus infections over the past week.

The outbreak at the Greencore sandwich factory pushed the East Midlands town to the top of the worst-affected local authority areas in England.

Town leaders have said a local lockdown is unlikely for the area because the majority of the new cases were limited to the factory and not the wider community.

Previously it was announced that 292 employees in total had tested positive for Covid-19 at Greencore, which supplies sandwiches to M&S.

Local authorities with the highest weekly infection rates

Northampton recorded the highest rate of cases across England and Wales this week (Picture: PA, Reuters)

Shows the rate of new cases recorded in the seven days to August 14 compared to the previous week ending August 7. The list has been calculated based on Public Health England data published on August 17 on the Government’s coronavirus online dashboard.

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