I’m in lockdown in Leicester – and, for me, this coronavirus summer is about to get a lot worse

It’s embarrassing that my home city is the first to face an extended local lockdown due to spiralling Covid-19 rates, but it’s also a huge relief

Sean O'Grady
Monday 29 June 2020 21:50 BST
'Extraordinarily risky' to lift lockdown measures now, warns David King

Sitting here writing this in my home town of Leicester, where I have been weathering the coronavirus storm from the start, I admit to very mixed feelings. For a start, it’s a bit embarrassing to be in the first place in the UK to be faced with a local lockdown due to rising Covid-19 rates.

What did the people of the city do to deserve it? Where were the riots? The mass parties? The widespread flouting of rules?

There were none – and Leicester is about as far away from a beach as anywhere. The outbreak might have something to do with a sandwich factory, but no one really knows.

According to the directly elected mayor Peter Soulsby, a Labour man, the government hasn’t been giving the council the information it needs to follow up the spike in cases: people’s place of work, addresses, and so on. Maybe the government itself doesn’t have much idea of what’s going on.

Priti Patel, the home secretary, says there’ll be extra resources for testing in Leicester and contact tracing. They’ll be needed, but that won’t be enough; the furlough scheme, and other economic measures, will also need to be extended for the city’s people being told to stay away from normal life for longer than the rest of the country.

The other emotion on heading into a renewed lockdown, however, is great relief.

For those of us who feel that the national lockdown is easing too far too fast, the reimposition of stricter social distancing is very welcome – even if it means the pubs will be out of bounds a little longer and things are further away from normal. Most of us can wait for that. No one is that thirsty.

Does anyone truly reckon Leicester will be the first and only candidate for a local lockdown? If so, I fear they are excessively optimistic.

What we have here is a national government (in England) pushing as fast as it can to get out of lockdown, and in doing so gambling with people’s health and lives. The number of cases and fatalities have come down, but the decline was levelling off when the relaxation was announced, still much higher than elsewhere in Europe. The chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, and the other experts have been markedly more cautious about the coming “liberation day”, stressing the mitigation measures, such as face coverings, that are needed to see the two-metre rule come down to one metre. There’s not that much evidence, however, that the public are taking the official guidance that seriously.

The second wave – and the second lockdown – is coming, sooner or later.

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