Leicester mayor says government's local lockdown guidance 'cobbled together'

Leicester could be facing the prospect of continued lockdown restrictions after coronavirus cases spiked in the city. (Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

Leicester’s mayor Sir Peter Soulsby has criticised the government for its communication over the handling of the city’s coronavirus outbreak.

The city has recorded 866 new cases of coronavirus in the past fortnight – leading to speculation over the weekend that local lockdown measures could be introduced.

Delivering a series of criticisms of the information the local council has received, the Labour mayor told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday: “Frankly, it’s been intensely frustrating.

“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 1.04am that the recommendations for Leicester arrived in my inbox.

Sir Peter Soulsby has slammed government communication over Leicester's coronavirus outbreak as 'intensely frustrating'. (Joe Giddens/PA Images via Getty Images)

“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.”

Leicester public health director Ivan Browne was also critical about the level of information given to the city to tackle the outbreak.

He told Today: “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.”

Claudia Webbe, Labour MP for Leicester East, urged residents to stay at home, saying the government’s “mixed and confusing” messaging is putting lives at risk.

Labour MP Claudia Webbe has accused the government of 'putting lives at risk' by not imposing a localised lockdown on Leicester. (PA)

Webbe told BBC News she wanted to see a local lockdown, saying high poverty, more positive coronavirus tests and higher ethnic diversity in Leicester East had contributed to a “perfect storm” that was putting her constituents at risk.

On Sunday, Priti Patel appeared to confirm Leicester would be locked down.

Asked by the BBC’s Andrew Marr about suggestions the city could return to lockdown, she said: “That is correct.”

Priti Patel told the BBC's Andrew Marr that Leicester would be subject to new lockdown measures (David Nash/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

"We have seen flare-ups across the country already, just in the last three or four weeks in particular,” she added.

“There will be support going into Leicester.

“The health secretary was in touch with many of us over the weekend explaining some of the measures, the support on testing, resources that are going into the local authority as well, because with local flare-ups it is right we have a localised solution in terms of infection control, social distancing, testing and many of the tools actually within the Public Health England space that will come together to control the virus and to stop the spread so we can get on top of the infection.”

But Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s shadow health secretary and Leicester South MP, said Patel had “got slightly in a muddle” about a possible lockdown.

He said he had spoken to health secretary Matt Hancock, adding: “I don’t believe a local lockdown in Leicester is about to be proposed.”

Boris Johnson told Times Radio on Monday that the government has a “whack-a-mole” plan to deal with localised outbreaks of COVID-19.

Boris Johnson has said the UK has a 'whack-a-mole' plan to deal with localised outbreaks of coronavirus. (Reuters/John Sibley)

He said: “Local hospital admissions are coming down, so are the death numbers.

“They are much, much lower than they were a few weeks ago and that is encouraging. But the crucial thing is to make sure we are ready to crack down on local flare-ups.

“We have a whack-a-mole strategy.”

Leicester’s outbreak comes as restrictions are being eased elsewhere in the UK, with parks - and shops with outdoor entrances - able to reopen in Scotland, and schools in Wales welcoming more pupils.

The Welsh government said schools will operate with staggered starts and breaks for “check-in, catch-up and prepare” sessions starting on Monday.

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