Pubs, restaurants and hairdressers in Leicester may be forced to remain closed for two weeks after an increase in coronavirus cases, the city’s mayor has suggested.
Sir Peter Soulsby severely criticized the government for dealing with the situation in the city and said he had to “be convinced” that an extension of the ban was necessary.
He said an overnight report from Public Health England (PHE) had been “cobbled together” and “immediately admit” that the Leicester cases were higher due to higher levels of testing in the city.
The report says the current restrictions across Leicester across England should be extended for another two weeks, he told the PA news agency.
This means that pubs, restaurants, hairdressers, outdoor playgrounds, and other areas will remain closed and won’t have to reopen on July 4th as planned.
Leicester has registered 866 new cases of coronavirus in the past two weeks – leading to speculation over the weekend that the city would be closed.
The report’s recommendations say, “It’s about extending the restrictions for another two weeks, but what we don’t have yet – whether they’re bans or restrictions – is why on earth you’d do this and why you would do it here in Leicester, “he said to PA.
“It is very unclear what difference they would make and why you would do it, how it might make a difference.
“If the virus gets out of control or spreads with the restrictions, I can’t see how a two-week extension would make a difference.”
Sir Peter sentenced government officials to media briefings over the weekend that the city could be closed.
He said he would inform Health Secretary Matt Hancock on Monday afternoon that “there is no reason to choose Leicester, our economy and our business, which is not the case for the rest of the UK”.
Sir Peter said it was also unclear who would have the power to place further restrictions on the city.
When asked in Sky News whether he was ready to continue the ban for another two weeks, Sir Peter said, “I say we must be convinced that there is a reason for this.”
When asked if he believes that pubs and restaurants will reopen in the city on July 4th, he said: “This will happen all over England on Saturday 4th July and I expect that – if so we don’t get any instructions to the contrary – the case will happen here as it should be with the rest of England. “
Earlier, Sir Peter said it was “incredibly frustrated” to get numbers out of the government “after weeks of questions.”
He told the BBC: “I was looking at this report and frankly it was obviously cobbled together very hastily.
“It’s superficial and his description of Leicester is inaccurate and certainly doesn’t give us the information we need to stay restricted for two weeks longer than the rest of the country.”
Ivan Browne, director of public health in Leicester, was also critical of the level of information available to the city to combat the outbreak.
“Interestingly, it’s mainly about the younger working-age population and especially about the eastern part of our city,” he said.
“I don’t think we’re seeing a single cause or smoking gun at the moment, so we really have to try to figure out what’s going on, and it’s probably a combination of factors.
“Information was a challenge all the time.”
On Sunday, Interior Minister Priti Patel seemed to confirm in interviews with broadcasters that Leicester would be banned.
But Jonathan Ashworth, shadow health minister and Leicester South MP, said Ms. Patel was “easily confused” about a possible ban.
Meanwhile, Boris Johnson said Monday the government was “concerned about Leicester”.
When visiting a construction site in West London, the Prime Minister said: “We are concerned about Leicester, we are concerned about a local outbreak.
“I want to emphasize to people that we are not out of the forest yet. We take these careful, calibrated steps, we open as much hospitality as possible on July 4th and we open as much economy as possible – unfortunately some things still remain closed until they can become Covid-safe.
“But to make all of this possible, we have to remain vigilant.”
He said that in Weston-super-Mare and where there were outbreaks in general practitioners’ offices in London, a “beat-to-beat strategy” to contain local outbreaks had worked.
“It’s the same approach we’re going to take in Leicester,” he said.
He said he had spoken to Health Minister Matt Hancock and added, “I don’t think a local ban in Leicester is being proposed.”