SCHOOLS & shops will reopen in parts of Leicester next week – but pubs and restaurants will stay SHUT.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed today that the local lockdown would be partially lifted from July 24, but other measures would stay in place.
The seven day infection rate is now 119 per 100,000 people – down from 135 per 100,000.
Mr Hancock said testing had doubled in the city, but stressed it was too soon to lift all the measures.
He chaired several meetings today to decide on the moves.
And he stressed that a more targeted local area would now be the focus of the local lockdown.
Mr Hancock said this evening in the House of Commons: “We are now in a position to relax some, but not all, of the measures.
“From July 24 we will remove restrictions on schools and early years childcare, taking a more targeted approach to non-essential retail.
Travel restrictions will remain and people will still only be able to have gatherings with six people.
“And those measures introduced on the fourth of July will also not apply,” he added.
The City’s Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby said this morning that having the full picture would have prevented a lockdown from “ever being necessary” and said the people would be furious if it continued.
The city was the first in the UK to be put back into lockdown last month after a spike in cases.
Testing centres swooped on the city and people were encouraged to stay home. Shops were shut up again and pubs and restaurants did not open on July 4 ass in the rest of the country.
Asked what his reaction would be if the Government announced a further two-week lockdown, the city’s mayor told BBC Radio Lecieser: “I think if we are told that, there are going to be an awful lot of Leicester people who are very angry indeed.
“It was quite clear that it was a political decision taken without the advice of Public Health England (PHE) to take us into this lockdown in the first place.
“It’ll be a political decision to let us out and the sooner that political decision is taken, the better.”
Sir Peter also told Sky News: “I’m just very angry and frustrated because we’ve now, well into the lockdown, begun to get some data from the government that actually shows where the virus is and where it isn’t in the city.
“We’ve been asking for this for weeks.”
He said there were some clusters of the virus in parts of the city, but most of it was now corona-free.
“If we had this before, we could have used it to intervene – as Blackburn and other places are using it to intervene now – with those neighbourhoods to prevent the lockdown ever being necessary.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said today: “As this data confirms, coronavirus cases in Leicester were significantly higher than other parts of the country – and we took clear and decisive action to save lives.
“We are working closely with the local authorities to ensure that these measures are only in place as long as is necessary, and we will set out the next steps by 18 July.”
The Government has stressed that data has been provided to the Directors of Public Health throughout the incident.
The lockdown covers the city of Leicester as well as surrounding areas including Birstall, Beaumont Leys, Glenfield and South Wigston.
It has been suggested that families living in closer quarters, combined with a higher population of people whose English is a second language, may have contributed to the spike in cases.
Workers in cramped clothing factories have also been blamed, with Police and the National Crime Agency investigating possible links to modern slavery.
But Sir Peter told Sky News there is “no evidence whatsoever” to show coronavirus was being transmitted in clothing factories.
“There’s nothing in the data that suggests it is transmitting in places of work,” he said.
The most recent data from PHE shows that the number of new cases of coronavirus per 100,000 population in Leicester has dropped from 127.2 in the seven days to July 5 to 104.4 in the seven days to July 12.
It was 143.6 in the seven days to June 28, just before the local lockdown was imposed.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock met Leicester Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby on Monday to discuss the issues.
Mr Hancock revealed flare-ups are being “swiftly and silently” dealt with.
He said more than 100 “local actions” are being taken across the country each week.
Professor Jonathan Van-Tam told the BBC that data published on Saturday showed the city is “really quite an outlier” compared with anywhere else in the country.
The latest figures for Leicester show a seven-day rate of 126 cases per 100,000 people, compared with figures of 17.8 for Leicestershire as a whole, 9.3 in Derby and 5.4 in Nottingham.
Mr Van-Tam told the BBC: “The situation has improved but it needs to go further.”
He said that, while it would not be his decision to end the lockdown, doing so “can’t be rushed”.
Pressed on whether Leicester’s lockdown is likely to be lifted, Mr Van-Tam said: “With any of these things, usually the way that one approaches them from a public health perspective is to take a phased approach.
“Normally you don’t just go from having the brakes on heavily to just taking the brakes off completely.
“I think that’s a reasonable expectation to set.”