A wave of coronavirus infections in Leicester could see the UK’s first local lockdown brought in within days.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock is said to be “examining” the legislation needed for a shutdown after the city reported 658 new cases in the fortnight to June 16, the Sunday Times reports.
A source has told the paper Mr Hancock is considering “all options” to bring the flare-up under control.
It comes after food manufacturer Samworth Brothers confirmed that a “handful” of staff at its Leicester sandwich factory had contracted the deadly bug.
Other cases have been reported at a Sainsbury’s supermarket, according to the Sun, while five schools have also closed.
Andrew Bridgen, the Conservative MP for North West Leicestershire, said it was “unavoidable” for the government to look at ways to slow the spread of the virus in Leicester.
“Unfortunately the fact that the government is having to contemplate specific measures to control the spread of the virus in Leicester is now unavoidable in order to protect the rest of the country,” he said.
However, a source has told Sunday Times that a decision is yet to be taken.
“So far local action has been taken to lock down individual hospitals and GP surgeries where there has been an outbreak but this situation is more serious than that, although no decision has yet been taken,” the source said.
And one local source suggested the city council knew nothing of a possible local lockdown until reading speculation from central government yesterday.
Leicester’s elected City Mayor, Peter Soulsby, said yesterday the current reports of where the outbreak might be were “far too vague to be of any real use.”
He added: “There are many different communities and neighbourhoods in that local government ward, and we have no way of knowing which if any of them are being adversely affected by the virus.
“We’re getting that data now, we’re beginning to crunch that information, and hopefully within the next few days, we’ll be able to know what’s going on there – if anything – and if we need to, intervene in the right neighbourhood with the right communities.”
It comes as the number of deaths from coronavirus in the UK increased by 100 yesterday – the lowest Saturday increase in lockdown.
It brought the total number of UK deaths by Covid-19 reported by the Department of Health and Social Care to 43, 514.
On July 4, Boris Johnson is gearing up to re-open the hospitality industry, with pubs, restaurants, and bars among businesses which will re-open their doors for the first time in nearly four months.
It is thought that a decision to implement a local lockdown will be made by Public Health England, the bio-security centre and local public health directors.