Leicester’s coronavirus restrictions have been partially lifted, a month after it became the UK’s first area to be placed under local lockdown.
The East Midlands city was put on lockdown on July 29, as the rest of the country was seeing Covid-19 restrictions being eased.
After a great deal of confusion last night over the relaxing of emergency measures in Leicester, the Department of Health has confirmed that pubs, restaurants, cafes, hairdressers, museums and cinemas are set to re-open from Monday, while religious ceremonies will be allowed to take place.
Leisure centres, gyms and pools will remain closed for the time being. Leicester residents will be able to go on holiday with members of their own household. The borough of Oadby and Wigston just outside the city will be taken completely out of the local lockdown.
The city has been included in a ban on separate households meeting indoors affecting an estimated 4.5 million people in a number of regions where the infection rate is soaring – including Greater Manchester, parts of West Yorkshire and East Lancashire.
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In a statement, the Department of Health said: ‘Some exemptions will be put in place, including for the vulnerable. The government will sign new regulations to make these changes legally enforceable.
‘The regulations will give local authorities and police forces the powers to enforce these restrictions and more details on these will be set out when the regulations are published.
‘Households may go to hospitality, for instance bars and pubs, but new guidance will make clear that two households should not go to hospitality together.
Meanwhile local leaders and government have today agreed a number of changes to local restrictions in other areas.’
Single person households who have formed a support bubble with another home will still be able to meet indoors and gatherings in gardens can still go ahead.
Leicester’s initial restrictions were widely criticised, particularly by local politicians, with the Mayor claiming lockdown ‘could have been prevented’ and suggesting it was ‘not justified’ for the entire city – before claiming it should be lifted for 90% of the city two weeks ago.
Areas affected by indoor meeting ban
- The Greater Manchester
- Blackburn with Darwen
- Leicester City
And, slamming the Government again for delaying the decision, Sir Peter Soulsby said last night: ‘We haven’t got a clue what’s going on, we really haven’t. We’ve been messed about all day.
‘They were going to make the announcement much earlier in the day, then they were going to make it around 4pm, then 5pm, and now we understand they’re not even going to discuss it until 6pm. What a way to run a country.’
MPs took to Twitter last night suggesting pubs and restaurants would be able to re-open as Sir Peter was still awaiting official confirmation. Hancock confirmed the indoor meeting ban at around 9.15pm last night.
Slamming the Government’s handling of the announcement, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: ‘No one would argue with putting in place local action to reduce the transmission of coronavirus.
‘But announcing measures affecting potentially millions of people late at night on Twitter is a new low for the government’s communications during this crisis.
‘When the government ended the daily press conferences, they said they would hold them for “significant announcements”, including local lockdowns. It’s hard to imagine what could be more significant than this.
‘For all the bluster, government has failed to deliver a functioning track and trace system that would spot local flare ups like these.
‘The people of Greater Manchester now need urgent clarity and explanation from the government – and there must be proper support for those businesses and people affected by any lockdown.’
Blackburn and Oldham are among ten areas identified as having rapidly rising infection rates.
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