Coronavirus: Law will be changed as COVID-19 spike forces Leicester back into lockdown

30 June 2020, 07:30 | Updated: 30 June 2020, 20:08

Ministers will change the law in order to enforce the local coronavirus lockdown in Leicester, the health secretary has told Sky News.

"We will be bringing forward a legal change very shortly in the next couple of days," Matt Hancock said.

"Some of the measures that we've unfortunately had to take in Leicester will require a legal underpinning."

Mr Hancock said that "in some cases" the coronavirus lockdown will be enforced by the police, with legal changes brought in to ensure non-essential retail is no longer open.

The city is reimposing restrictions following a spike in COVID-19 cases.

A total of 10% of all positive cases in the country in the past week have come in the East Midlands city, which means the easing of lockdown across England on Saturday will not take place in Leicester.

Pubs, restaurants, cafes, hairdressers and barbers will remain shut, with people advised against all but essential travel.

Schools will close from Thursday, apart from for vulnerable children and the children of key workers.

Asked how people would be stopped from travelling outside the city, the health secretary replied: "We're recommending against all but essential travel both to and from and within Leicester, and as we saw during the peak, the vast majority of people will abide by these rules.

"Of course we will take further action including putting in place laws if that is necessary, but I very much hope it won't be."

Despite the local lockdown, Mr Hancock said Leicester's home Premier League match against Crystal Palace on Saturday will go ahead.

In a statement to Sky News, Leicester City confirmed fixtures and training are still going ahead.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has talked of a "whack-a-mole" strategy for tackling local outbreaks of the virus.

"The strategy is to allow for the opening up of the rest of the country, giving people their freedoms back where it is safe to do so," the health secretary said.

"But we also need alongside that to take local action where there is a specific flare-up."

He said there had been "a number of positive cases in the under-18s" detected through coronavirus testing in Leicester.

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"That's why we took the decision, with a heavy heart it has to be said, to close schools in Leicester and in Leicestershire, within the Leicester conurbation."

Speaking to Sky News on Tuesday morning, Leicester Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby said he had yet to be told what the boundaries of the lockdown will be.

"As yet, the government hasn't actually announced what it accepts to be the boundary of this lockdown," he said.

"Actually policing it is going to be something of a challenge until we know actually what the area is to be policed."

He added: "Whether it's a blue line on a map or a radius from the clock tower right at the heart of the city, I think we all need to know. As yet, we don't."

Sir Peter later said in a news conference that the local authority and experts are still trying to work out where the virus is in the city.

He said: "We do still need to know more about where it is in the community.

"I've had lots of speculation and lots of questions about where it is in the community and we have not as yet been able to give satisfactory answers even to ourselves, no matter anybody else, about which parts of the community need the intervention.

"Which neighbourhoods, which communities, indeed which streets."

A map showing where the localised lockdown will be in force has since been published.

Labour's shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds said it is important that "lessons are learned from what's happened in Leicester".

"It took a long time for information about the scale of that hotspot to actually be communicated to the local authorities in Leicester," she told Sky News.

"We can't have that lengthy delay occurring again. We really need to speed this up."