By Ned Simons
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According to Public Health England data, almost 3,000 Covid-19 cases have been confirmed in Leicester since the start of the coronavirus epidemic. Of these, 866 cases were reported in the last two weeks.
Speaking to Times Radio on Monday morning, the prime minister said the government had a “whack-a-mole strategy” to suppress the virus.
“The crucial thing is to make sure we are ready to crackdown on local flare-ups,” he said.
“That’s why you see the steps that are being taken in Leicester.”
Asked if he was still worried that total deaths and the infection rate remained too high, he added: “Every day I worry.
“Local hospital admissions are coming down, so are the death numbers,” he said.
Leicester’s mayor Peter Soulsby and government officials will today discuss the surge in Covid-19 cases in recent weeks.
Bars, restaurants and other parts of the hospitality industry are due to open on Saturday across England.
But Soulsby told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the plan he had seen was to keep the current lockdown restrictions in place in his city for two weeks past July 4.
“I’ve looked at this report and frankly it’s obviously been cobbled together very hastily,” he said.
“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.
“Interestingly it’s very much around the younger working-age population and predominately towards the east part of our city,” he told the BBC.
“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.
Labour MP for Leicester East, Claudia Webbe, said said she believes a local lockdown is necessary.
She told BBC Breakfast the government’s lifting of lockdown restrictions on July 4 while her constituency was seeing a new spike in cases would be “reckless”.
Webbe said countrywide lockdown measures introduced in late March should be re-introduced in Leicester, such as asking people to stay in their homes as much as possible and the two-metre social distancing restriction.
“That is the context in which this Covid-19 is operating in. So I’m very concerned, and I really do believe that where the data allows we need to ensure that we engage in processes to protect lives, and I think we need to go into therefore more localised lockdown to protect lives and ensure that we can address this virus,” she said.
The focus on Leicester’s future came as a leading scientist warned the country remains “on a knife edge” ahead of lockdown measures being further relaxed next month.
Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, said he was worried about a possible spike in infections ahead of the reopening of pubs, restaurants and hairdressers.
Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, he warned of the possibility of a “very nasty rebound” of coronavirus in the winter if the UK does not use the next few months “sensibly”.
Asked if that meant more people losing their lives, he said: “It could do.”