The government is considering “all options” for how to respond to the surge in coronavirus cases in Leicester, including imposing a localised lockdown, according to senior government sources.
Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, is receiving daily reports from the city, after it was revealed there had been 658 confirmed cases in Leicester in the fortnight to June 16.
A number of mobile testing stations have also been opened in the area, to make it easier for people with symptoms to get tested.
In recent days, new cases have been reported at the Samworth Bros sandwich factory in the city, two Sainsbury stores, and five schools have been closed following outbreaks.
New data on the spread of the virus has been delivered to Leicester’s mayor Sir Peter Soulsby, and he said his officials were analysing the data over the weekend.
Sir Peter has previously said he regards locking down the city as a “blunt instrument” and hoped that would prove not to be necessary.
A decision is unlikely to be made until the middle of next week, however the government has been examining the legislation required for the shutdown.
It is understood the Public Health Act 1984 gives the Government the power it needs to impose a localised lockdown.
According to the Institute for Government, the act gives the executive powers to deal with a pandemic or infection which presents or could later present “significant harm to human health”.
The Department of Health and Social Care stopped short of saying a local lockdown was likely for Leicester, but acknowledged the city was an area of concern as it urged residents in the city to be vigilant against the virus.
A spokesman said this morning: “We are supporting the council and local partners in Leicester to help prevent further transmission of the virus.”
“We have deployed four mobile testing sites and made thousands of home testing kits available, to ensure anyone in the area who needs a test can get one.”
“NHS Test and Trace will contact anyone testing positive to help them identify their recent contacts and advise who may have been near to someone with the virus to stay at home to prevent the spread.”
“We urge the people of Leicester to continue to practice social distancing, wash their hands regularly, get tested immediately if they have symptoms and follow the advice they receive if contacted by NHS Test and Trace. This advice is there to protect communities and save lives.”