Police will STOP drivers leaving Leicester in UK’s 1st local lockdown

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Published: 08:21 BST, 1 July 2020 | Updated: 09:19 BST, 1 July 2020

Police have pledged to turn around vehicles and fine drivers trying to flee Leicester for drinking or shopping after the city was put under a fresh lockdown following a spike in Covid-19 cases in the city.

Officers will carry out spot checks on vehicles leaving locked-down Leicester and could turn them around if their journey is not essential, it was revealed today, as confusion reigned because some areas in the city limits are in lockdown while neighbours are not.

Leicestershire Police is also threatening £100 fines amid growing concerns that residents may flee for the county’s open pubs, hair salons or other attractions while patrols will also break up mass gatherings in the city after they were partially blamed for a spike in coronavirus cases in June.

Yesterday Leicester City fan Colin Browning tweeted a callout for people to join him on a coach to Nottingham for a night in the pub for £15 including space on a 48-seater bus including ‘free hand sanitiser, masks and gloves’. It sold out on Tuesday but he reduced it to a minibus last night after admitting he had ‘gone over the top’.

It came after people booked minibuses and coaches to ferry them up to nearby Nottingham and Derby to drink on ‘Super Saturday’ this weekend – when the rest of England emerges from lockdown on July 4. Nottinghamshire’s chief constable Craig Guildford says his officers are also ready to act if Leicester residents turn up for ‘shopping or a night outin Nottingham while British Transport Police will be checking those using trains between the two cities.

Pictured: The lockdown zone in Leicester, which has left some Britons in lockdown while their neighbours are not

Patrols could also be increased in public spaces to enforce the guidelines but road blocks are considered over the top, the Times reported, as police in Leicestershire criticised the ‘drip-feedingof information from Whitehall to agencies on the ground and Matt Hancock insisted that the closure of shops would be enforced by law but there would be no travel ban.

Willy Bach, police and crime commissioner for Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland, criticised the lockdown process. ‘We were not even provided with a map of the [lockdown] area until well after the announcement. I have a great deal of sympathy with the agencies charged with delivery. They needed clarity from the start, and I am astonished that it is being drip-fed as the day progresses,’ he said.

Officers will stop cars, minibuses and coaches and break up large groups after it emerged that a large block party was held in Leicester last weekend.

Oxford University’s Professor Peter Horby, who chairs the new and emerging respiratory virus threats advisory group (Nervtag), has said the public should brace themselves for other local coronavirus restrictions to return later in the year.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘Unfortunately I think we should. We’ve seen the epidemic is focal, which is often the case, it’s not the same in all places. And we saw that London unfortunately led the way in the UK and now Leicester is unfortunately leading the way and we can expect more of that, so I think there will have to be local responses to local outbreaks.

Dr Duncan Robertson, a data expert at Loughborough University’s School of Business and Economics, told MailOnline that Public Health England statistics show a ‘cluster of outbreaks around Manchesterwhile Doncaster has also seen a surge in cases and there are ongoing outbreaks in Kent, Wales and Scotland that are causing concern.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed lockdown measures will be extended in the East Midlands city for at least two weeks after a dramatic surge in coronavirus cases, with non-essential shops closed again and schools shut from Thursday. It will not be reviewed again until July 18, according to Government documents.

Leicester City Council and Public Health England issued a map on Tuesday detailing exactly which areas in Leicestershire will be subject to the lockdown, with the boundary extending to Birstall to the north of the city and Wigston to the south.

Police check cars in York on March 26. Officers will perform similar checks to ensure locals are obeying the new locdkown in Leicester

Pictured: Where the border cuts across Leicester on Bowhill Grove, after Matt Hancock announced a local extension of lockdown

But those living on a street in Scraptoft last night said they were ‘totally confusedby the Government’s lockdown boundary, as it leaves half the road under strict lockdown and others free to enjoy the nationwide easing of restrictions on July 4.

Kathleen McDonagh, 77, who lives a few metres inside Leicester’s lockdown border with her daughter Mary, 56, faces a wait of at least two weeks before she can enjoy relaxed Covid-19 measures and be able to head to the pub, hair salons and restaurants.

The pair will also have to wait before they can visit with their children and grandchildren, enjoy a cup of tea at The White Horse, or attend mass at the nearby St Joseph’s Catholic Church.

Meanwhile, Veronica Cayless, 77, who lives in a house opposite the McDonaghs, is excited to restart her life alongside most Britons on what has been dubbed ‘Super Saturday’.

Her home falls outside the extended lockdown boundary, which was announced on Monday amid a spike in Covid-19 cases in Leicester. The city accounted for around 10 per cent of all positive cases in Britain over the past week.

Leicester has an infection rate of 135 per 100,000 people, which is three times higher than the next highest local area. Hospital admissions are also much higher than the norm at between six and ten per day.

The families both live on a quiet suburban street made up of semi-detached, four-bedroom homes with neatly manicured lawns.

But the imposition of a local lockdown boundary means some residents will have to remain in isolation while others will, from Saturday, enjoy the same liberation as the rest of the country.

Less than a mile away from Mrs McDonagh and Ms Cayless, neighbours who fall both inside and outside the lockdown zone are separated by a mere wooden picket fence.

Those on the divided street in Scraptoft last night told of their confusion at the invisible barrierbut insisted that following lockdown rules is the right thing to do.

Mrs McDonagh, who lives a few metres inside the border, said she had been looking forward to seeing her grandson who she has not been able to visit since lockdown measures were imposed in March.

‘That is what I was looking forward to,’ she said. ‘I used to see him every day. I really miss him. It is awful. I miss not going to the shops. I like to meet my sister in town once a month and have a cup of tea, but I have not seen her since March, either.

Kathleen McDonagh, 77, who lives inside the border in Scraptoft with her daughter Mary (seen together), 56, faces a wait of at least two weeks before she can enjoy relaxed lockdown measures and be able to head to the pub, hair salons, restaurants alongside the rest of Britain

‘It’s my birthday in August and my son was planning to invite us to a party but I don’t think that will happen now.

Lisa Jones, 52, Shelly Evans, 56, and Helen Bale, 49, remain in lockdown in Leicester while their neighbours David Blohm, 74, and Emil Gryglewski do not, as the new border runs through their street

Data shows how Leicester’s coronavirus outbreak has grown over time. The numbers compiled for England only include pillar one swab tests, which officials say are only given to patients with a medical need or key workers

The Leicester lockdown boundary cuts across Telford Way and Kinross Avenue, with neighbours separated by a wooden fence now in entirely different situations

This evening, the border street of Telford Way / Kinross Avenue was busy with children and neighbours in front of their homes on a summer evening doing jobs, chatting and riding bikes

A discussion of ‘Rrates disappeared amid the spike of coronavirus in Leicesteras experts claim the measurement becomes less reliable when cases drop.

The ‘R’ – or reproductiverate had been used by ministers to explain whether the coronavirus pandemic was growing or in retreat in Britain throughout the crisis.

The number, which is currently between 0.7 and 0.9 in the UK, depicts the average number of secondary infections produced by someone with Covid-19.

An ‘Rrate less than one shows a falling pandemic, whereas infections are growing if it is above one.

The ‘Rvalue was barely mentioned in briefings amid the spike in coronavirus cases in Leicester, the Daily Telegraph reported, with Matt Hancock instead sharing a seven-day infection rate.

He also mentioned daily hospital admissions in the areawhich are currently between six and ten.

This apparent shift away from the ‘Rrate could illustrate growing discomfort with the measurement among ministers.

In June, a senior government scientist issued a ‘word of cautionto the media about the term, especially when it was applied regionally.

For daughter Mary, a freelance print designer who works from home, she is also missing family – and the chance to go to church.

‘We have not been to mass since March,’ she said. ‘We miss it. We watch televised masses, but it’s not the same. We cannot receive communion.

Leicester has recorded 944 positive Covid-19 cases over two weeks – almost a third of the city’s 3,216 total since the pandemic began.

‘We are doing everything we can to follow the rules to help the community,’ said Mary, who revealed they have not even seen family members on the opposite side of the street, except on Zoom.

‘We will never get out of lockdown if people don’t just knuckle under and do it for everyone else.

Meanwhile Ms Cayless, who lives directly opposite the McDonaghs, said she is looking forward to visiting one of her sons, who lives in St Albans, for the first time since Christmas.

‘It is totally confusing for everyone. But I am lucky. I am looking forward to going for a walk with my friend, which I would not be able to do over there,’ she said.

Ms Cayless added she isn’t sure how the extended lockdown will be enforced, as ‘how can anyone test where someone is from if they have crossed the boundary.

Less than a mile away, residents inside and outside of the lockdown zone near Thurncourt are separated only by a wooden picket fence.

On one side, Helen Bale, 49, said she is disappointed she will have to wait even longer to visit friends and family outside Leicester, because those inside the restricted zone are now limited to just essential travel.

‘We were due to visit my in-laws in Mablethorpe in Lincolnshire but now we can’t go,’ said the care worker. ‘If I was stopped by police they would say you can’t do it.

The confusion about what residents can and cannot do is widespread and extends to whether people can work and where they can shop.

Matt Hancock announced non-essential shops will shut from today and schools will close from Thursday in Leicester

The streets of Leicester were almost empty this morning as residents responded to the warnings about a coronavirus surge

The market remained boarded up in Leicester today, with lockdown set to be tightened up again to combat the spread

Gallowtree Gate in Leicester today as locals brace themselves for the new lockdown after a coronavirus surge

A resident walks along a street in the North Evington area of Leicester today amid the renewed lockdown measures

Government officials, local politicians and scientists are divided over whether Leicester is experiencing a real surge in cases or whether better testing is simply finding more of them where it wasn’t before.

It is also not clear whether there are any characteristics of Leicester which make it more likely to see a surge in cases, or if random chance has meant the first ‘second waveis happening there. Experts say many of the risk factors in Leicester are the same in all major cities in England.

The mayor of the city, Sir Peter Soulsby, said on BBC Radio 4 this morning that a report sent to him by the Government ‘actually acknowledges that it’s very likely that the increase in number of positives identified is a result of increased testing, and that actually there’s perhaps nothing of any great significance in those results.

Director of Public Health for the city, Ivan Browne, said: ‘Interestingly it [the surge in cases] is very much around the younger, working age population and predominantly towards the east part of our city. We started to see this level through our testing programme.

‘Young people work in many industries across the city so at this stage what we’re trying to do is gather as much epidemiological information as we can to really try and get underneath and have an understanding. I don’t think at the moment that we are seeing a single source or a single smoking gun on this’.

It was always likely that surges in cases would be seen in cities first. There are more people, raising the risk, and those people are more likely to live in densely populated areas and come into contact with strangers on a regular basis.

Dr Shaun Fitzgerald, from the University of Cambridge, said: ‘There will be differences in the ease with which people can maintain physical distance between densely populated areas and rural environments – so it isn’t surprising to me that we may see localised flare-ups, which in turn may need suppressing through delayed easing or temporary re-introduction of some constraints on some movements and activities.

Leicester also has high levels of deprivation, which affects people’s lives in ways that put them at risk of catching the virus.

Dr Simon Clarke, a microbiologist at the University of Reading, told MailOnline: ‘In deprived areas people are more likely to have to go to work, less likely to be able to work from home, and more likely to use public transport. They can’t distance themselves from others.

The Samworth Brothers sandwich factory in the city reported over the weekend that it had diagnosed cases of Covid-19 among its staff.

Food processing factories are a higher transmission risk because cold environments allow the virus to survive for longer on hard surfaces and make people’s airways more susceptible to infection.

‘Blue collar cities are now at higher risk than places like London and Manchester which have more financial services,’ he added.

‘My boss called me and said how does it fall for you? If I don’t go in, I don’t get paid. I just don’t see how it is going to work,’ she said.

‘I am confused,’ said the dance school receptionist. ‘Am I allowed on the other side of that fence? Am I allowed to go to the local shops for essentials because the shops I use are just outside the lockdown zone?’

Mrs Jonesdaughter had a baby just before the initial lockdown period was introduced and visits have only just restarted. Now, they will have to end.

‘I have only seen my grandson three or four times. And now I cannot see him. It’s devastating,’ she said.

On Tuesday, the border street was busy with children and neighbours in front of their homes doing jobs, chatting and riding bikes.

However, at a point in the road a line of cobbles crosses the tarmac, which is the route of an old railway line that marks the boundary between the City of Leicester and the Market Harborough District, which is outside the lockdown area.

The first house in the ‘free worldof Market Harborough District belongs to David Blohm, 61, a retired builder.

‘I don’t get it,’ he told MailOnline. ‘Before lockdown my wife and I would go for a meal once a fortnight, I am looking forward to doing that again. But I am really worried about Covid. I think they released the lockdown too early.

Meanwhile, Emil Gryglewski, 33, is glad to be on the right side of the lockdown line but is sympathetic to his neighbours who are not.

‘I understand it is a difficult situation,’ he said. ‘I am not sure if it’s a good way to stop the virus, but if you are going to do it there needs to be a line somewhere. Unfortunately, this is the line.

‘I am on the good side, they are on the dark side,’ joked the father. ‘I feel sorry for them. I know it’s not fair.

People elsewhere in the city appeared to agree with the lockdown on Tuesday, but were angry it had been required.

Accountant Vina Chaudhry, 34, told The Sun: ‘I’m embarrassed to be born and to live in Leicester and I hope the Government makes an example of our city. How can some people be so stupid and breach social distancing rules that are put in place to help keep us safe. The city has been packed and we are now being punished for those idiots not abiding by the rules.

Shop worker David Welby, 46, added: ‘Leicester hasn’t complied and we’re now all paying the price. But I have no problem obeying the lockdown and I’m glad it’s extended. It’s essential.

Speaking to the House of Commons last night, the Health Secretary confirmed non-essential shops which opened on June 15 would close again from Tuesday and schools would shut from Thursday as he plunged Leicester back into lockdown.

‘Having taken clinical advice on the actions necessary and discussed them with the local team in Leicester and Leicestershire, we have made some difficult but important decisions,’ he told MPs.

‘We’ve decided that from tomorrow, non-essential retail will have to close and as children have been particularly impacted by this outbreak, schools will also need to close from Thursday, staying open for vulnerable children and children of critical workers as they did throughout.

‘Unfortunately, the clinical advice is that the relaxation of shielding measures due on July 6 cannot now take place in Leicester.

‘We recommend to people in Leicester, stay at home as much as you can, and we recommend against all but essential travel to, from and within Leicester. We’ll monitor closely adhering to social distancing rules and we’ll take further steps if that is what’s necessary.

Soldiers from the Royal Logistics Corp operate a mobile coronavirus testing site at Evington Leisure Centre in Leicester today, with one pictured carrying a box for drivers to put their Covid-19 swabs in

Mr Hancock said the reintroduced measures will be kept under review and will not be kept in place ‘any longer than is necessary’, adding: ‘We’ll review if we can release any of the measures in two weeks.

‘These Leicester-specific measures will apply not just to the city of Leicester but also the surrounding conurbation including, for example, Oadby, Birstall and Glenfield.

The Health Secretary told the Commons: ‘These actions are profoundly in the national interest too because it’s in everyone’s interests that we control the virus as locally as possible.

‘Local action like this is an important tool in our armoury to deal with outbreaks while we get the country back on its feet.

Leicester mayor pleads for bailout cash to stop firms being crippled by new closure ordersas it’s revealed he broke restrictions to visit his girlfriend

A furious row broke out yesterday over the Government’s decision to put Leicester back in lockdown.

The city’s mayor demanded a new bailout for struggling businesses and police complained they needed clear instructions on enforcing restrictions.

The local police commissioner also criticised the ‘drip-feedingof information from Whitehall to agencies on the ground.

There was anger that a map showing which parts of the city and surrounding areas were subject to the lockdown only emerged ‘well afterit had been announced.

Niall Dickson, head of the NHS Confederation, which represents health service providers, said the lockdown had been ‘clouded in confusion’, warning: ‘What has happened in Leicester could well be repeated elsewhere and we need a transparent approach for any future local lockdowns with clear accountability and public messages that are transparent, consistent and timely.

Leicester mayor Sir Peter Soulsby (pictured) today demanded a new bailout for struggling businesses as police complained they needed clear instructions on enforcing restrictions

Leicester mayor Sir Peter Soulsby called for a bailout and said he was ‘very, very concernedabout the economic impact on the city, which has seen a spike in coronavirus cases in the past two weeks.

Non-essential shops that reopened a fortnight ago were told to close yesterday and schools must shut once more to most pupils from today.

The nationwide easing of restrictions this Saturday – including the reopening of pubs, hair salons and restaurants – will not extend to the city.

Residents were advised to stay at home as much as possible and warned against all but essential travel. The lockdown zone includes 147 local authority-controlled schools which must close tomorrow except for the children of key workers.

The Prime Minister’s spokesman said any Leicester employers who have used the furlough scheme up to now could re-furlough employees.

Gallowtree Gate in Leicester today as locals brace themselves for the new lockdown after a coronavirus surge

Three females wearing masks queue outside the testing centre. The city’s mayor has said that pubs and restaurants may have to stay closed for two more weeks due to a surge in cases

People stand in a queue outside a walk-in coronavirus testing centre in Leicester, directed by a man in an orange hi-viz jacket wearing a mask

Four men in the military are pictured standing round at a mobile walk-in testing centre at Spinney Hill Park, a 34-acre green space close to the city centre

Leicestershire Police Federation said it would be ‘impossibleto manage the situation solely by relying on the public’s ‘common sense’.

Figures released by Leicester City Council yesterday showed that 3,216 Covid-19 cases have been confirmed since the start of the epidemic, with almost a third of those – 944 – reported in the last two weeks.

Alarmingly, the percentage of young people aged 18 and under being diagnosed with the virus in Leicester has trebled from five per cent to 15 per cent over the last six weeks.

Dr Jon Bennett, of Glenfield Hospital in the city, said staff first noticed an ‘upsurgein coronavirus admissions three weekends ago. A quarter of the hospital’s 80 current Covid patients are now on oxygen support.

Dave Stokes, of Leicestershire Police Federation, said his members would be assessing the ‘practicalitiesof the new lockdown.

Sir Peter Soulsby was forced to apologise when a newspaper revealed he breached rules last month by visiting his partner before restrictions were relaxed.

The former Labour MP, 71, admitted ‘an error of judgmentafter he stayed overnight at partner Lesley Summerland’s home. Neighbours said he stayed with Miss Summerland, 64, up to four times a week.

Leicestershire Tory MP Andrew Bridgen said: ‘Now we’ve got the situation where there is a huge spike in infections.

Sir Peter Soulsby really should stand down. He has ignored the lockdown rules himselfhe is culpable.

He added: ‘It’s essential we get clarity from the Government as soon as possible on what the public can and can’t do in this targeted lockdown. As we have seen over recent weeks and months, if the guidance and messaging from Government is confusing for the public then it will be almost impossible for our colleagues to police.

‘We still wait for confirmation on what our colleaguesexact roles will be in policing, and potentially enforcing, this ‘Leicester Lockdown’, and what legislation our members will be asked to use.

Earlier yesterday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said extra testing in Leicester over the last ten days had found an ‘unusually high incidenceof Covid-19 in children. He added: ‘Therefore, because children can transmit the disease – even though they are highly unlikely to get ill from the disease – we think the safest thing to do is close the schools.

Leicester is one of the most ethnically diverse places in the UK, where only 45 per cent of the 330,000 population identify as white British. The city’s infection rate is three times higher than in Bradford – the next worst-affected area.

Doctors in Leicester say they first noticed a surge in cases three weeks ago – but it was not until yesterday that the Government published full data showing the extent of the outbreak.

The Department of Health said: ‘Public Health England began continuously sharing data with the local director of public health as soon as a spike in cases was identified.

So much for all these smart new post-Covid council signs erected all over the city which say: ‘Great to have you back in Leicester’.

As of this week, they might as well add: ‘But I’m afraid you’ve been sent to Coventry.

Poor Leicester woke up yesterday to discover that it is the first place in Britain that must rewind the clock to the dark days of April after a localised second wave of coronavirus.

The city famous for unearthing a king in a car park (Richard III now rests in great state in Leicester Cathedral) has become famous again for being the first to go back to ‘lockdown– although it must be said that I could find absolutely no evidence of any enforcement here yesterday.

This is no mere ‘spike’. A famously multi-cultural city that accounts for just 0.6 per cent of the population, Leicester now accounts for a whopping ten per cent of all cases of Covid-19 across NHS England.

So any return to normality has been postponed for at least a fortnight. While the rest of the country will see pubs, hotels and campsites reopening this weekend, Leicester has been told to go the other way. ‘Super Saturdaywill be ‘Sober Saturdayin this part of the East Midlands, with ‘Sombre Sundayto follow.

Poor Leicester woke up yesterday to discover that it is the first place in Britain that must rewind the clock to the dark days of April after a localised second wave of coronavirus, writes Robert Hardman (Pictured: Vicki Chapple on her market stall in Leicester)

The city famous for unearthing a king in a car park (Richard III now rests in great state in Leicester Cathedral) has become famous again for being the first to go back to ‘lockdown

Schools must close, along with non-essential shops – many of which had only just reopened – and people are being told to stay at home.

Pubs and restaurants that had been busy preparing to reopen are now tearfully putting the shutters back up.

‘We’re like the Leicester lepers,’ sighs local child protection worker, Tracy Jebbett, calling in to BBC Radio Leicester to complain that her upcoming holiday to Cornwall has just been cancelled.

The management of her St Austell campsite have just announced a ban on all bookings from Leicester and have told her she cannot come.

Social media, meanwhile, is buzzing with stories of Leicester lads and lasses planning to escape to neighbouring Derby or Nottingham for a night on the tiles this weekend.

Anyone stupid or brave enough to head out of town in a Leicester City or Leicester Tigers replica shirt can certainly expect ostracism – or worse.

The local authorities have said they will ‘enforcerestrictions but no one believes that for one moment. This is not Wuhan, and no one is expecting the proverbial ‘ring of steel’. But, thus far, Leicester is not even bothering with a ring of Dettol.

Of more immediate concern to the authorities is why this particular city should be suffering such an explosion of cases after a below-average rate of infection thus far.

‘Parts of the city are very overcrowded and some people have been negligent because we were sailing along near the bottom of the infection league,’ says Manzoor Moghal, chairman of the Muslim Forum think tank, businessman and former chairman of the county council race relations committee.

‘We have a lot of factories. Leicester is mostly Asian and a lot of families have been visiting each other, thinking they were Covid-free. And now that has been found out.

Pictured: Robert Hardman stands by a sign reading ‘great to have you back in Leicesteras the city’s lockdown is extended

Despite widespread publicity about the disproportionate impact of the virus on members of ethnic minorities, and the number of multi-generational households here, Mr Moghal says the message has been lost on many.

‘That should have made people take more precautions and older people, especially those with underlying issues, have done that. But the young take a different attitude.

Talk of minorities is somewhat ambiguous. Leicester prides itself on being the most diverse city in Britain. The 2011 census showed the white population (50.6 per cent) would soon be a minority and subsequent polls suggest this is now the case.

However, some of the areas with the highest infection rates are those with predominantly Asian-origin populations on the eastern side of the city.

‘You just want to look at the local park at night,’ says Amit Patel, 26, boss of Milan Sweets in Evington, just down from the once-mighty Imperial Typewriter Factory. ‘There are 500 people in there watching or playing cricket at night.

He only recently reopened his delightful shop and adjacent catering business, and has just brought all his staff back from furlough. Initially, business was back to 80 per cent of pre-pandemic turnover but, as of this week, it has slumped. ‘We can’t afford to shut down again, especially if there is going to be no government support.

So does he expect Leicester to observe the renewed lockdown? ‘Some will. But others will go straight to the pub in Market Harborough.

You need only venture off main streets like East Park Road to see some of the places where, according to the locals, fresh cases of the virus are rife. There are numerous small factories, many of them in the textile trade, that have recently gone back to work.

The lights are on in cluttered workshops, the machinery is grinding away and staff are working at close quarters with no apparent sign of extra ventilation beyond the odd open window. Meanwhile, the gutters outside are littered with piles of empty nitrous oxide (or laughing gas) canisters, a sure sign of back-street partying.

‘Indians like to sit together and share food together,’ says Ali Siddiq, 56, offering me a piece of naan bread as he sits on a bench in Spinney Hill Park. ‘You’ve got houses on the Uppingham Road with shift workers living 12 to a house. That’s why this virus is here. But I am leaving it all to God.

‘Go out on the streets in the morning and you’ll see all these workers heading for the factories,’ says retired council officer Masoom Jeraj, 69, whom I meet in Spinney Hill Park with his wife, Naznin.

People observe social distancing in Spinney Hill Park, Leicester as non-essential shops close amid the localised pandemic lockdown

Children’s play swings remained locked and chained, due to the coronavirus pandemic, in Spinney Hill Park, Leicester today

The couple have come here to get a coronavirus test at the walk-in testing centre run by a team from the 2nd Battalion The Royal Anglians. Everyone seems delighted to see Sergeant Ashley Ward and his team, four of whom are local Leicester lads anyway.

‘I don’t see this as a task. It’s just something that needs to be done and we are pleased to help,’ says Lance-Corporal Peter Arnold, 26, formerly of nearby London Road.

I am offered a nose-and-throat swab test which is quick and painless with a result promised in 24 hours. I expected a long queue here but there is none at all.

After a while, Kalpesh, 44, turns up with his mother and five-year-old daughter. Kalpesh has been off work for several days with a headache. His doctor told him to see an optician – which he has already done – but he has now lost his sense of smell, too. His mother, he adds, has developed a cough.

I ask where he works. ‘Samworth Brothers,’ he says. Instant alarm bells. The giant food factory has already confirmed cases on its production lines. Kalpesh says he was planning to go back to work in the morning. So is he going? ‘I will wait for the results,’ he says. I wish him the best of luck.

The centre of Leicester is eerily empty, save for the market place. A restricted number of stalls are selling fruit and veg on the same spot where a young Gary Lineker used to work on his father’s stand.

One of Barry Lineker’s former workers was Vicki Chapple who has long been running her own stall. She has stayed open through the pandemic and has sent plenty of fresh fruit to her sister, an intensive care nurse who has been ‘very poorlywith the virus.

‘It really saddens me because it makes this city look bad,’ she tells me. ‘We are a strong city and we will bounce back. But I don’t like this idea of segregating the city. If you’re going to have a lockdown, it should be the whole county or else it won’t work.

Out beyond the city boundaries, however, I find plenty of solidarity. The Bulls’s Head at Whetstone had been due to reopen this weekend and still could – but will not.

‘I had a big order of beer booked for this morning but I have just cancelled it,’ says landlady Jane Irwin. ‘We’d been really looking forward to seeing our regulars again.’But we’re only just beyond the red line so some people might have been worried about other drinkers crossing the line. So we’ll just have to wait. We’ve done three and a half months of lockdown. What’s another two weeks?’

Clothes factory bosses in Leicester vow to defy city lockdown because they cannot afford to lose any more moneyeven if it puts lives at risk

Garment manufacturers in Leicester have vowed to defy the city’s local coronavirus lockdown, protesting that they cannot afford to lose any more money even if it means putting lives at risk.

Dozens of small to medium sized units making clothes for leading high street and online companies operate in the city’s lockdown area, where coronavirus rates are highest.

All were operating on the first day of the city’s lockdown despite Government ordering non-essential businesses to close and warning residents to stay at home.

Many garment bosses also admitted to MailOnline that they only partially closed during the first lockdown and resumed operating before they should have done.

Local officials have already voiced concerns that one of the reasons for Leicester’s coronavirus spike may be the poor conditions garment workers have to face with little social distancing or PPE provided for them.

They also face long hours toiling in stuffy factories where there is little ventilation, increasing the chances of becoming infected with coronavirus.

Asim Ali, 34, manager of Fazia Fashion which is located in lockdown area said: ‘We haven’t had any guidance from the Government or local authority on if we should close or remain open.

‘But to be honest, we lost so much money during the first lockdown that we cannot afford to close. It would be a disaster for the company and our workers. So, we will remain open, regardless of what the authorities tell us.

The company employs 35 people and most of them were busy stitching clothes for an order which had to be completed by the end of this week. Not all were wearing masks or gloves while others did not maintain social distance.

Asim Ali, 34, manager of Fazia Fashion which is located in lockdown area said: ‘We haven’t had any guidance from the Government or local authority on if we should close or remain open. But to be honest, we lost so much money during the first lockdown that we cannot afford to close. It would be a disaster for the company and our workers. So, we will remain open, regardless of what the authorities tell us

Leicester has the largest number of garment workers in the UK and there are 1500 garment manufacturing businesses in the city employing around 10,000 people, the majority from BAME communities.

Figures already shown that BAME people are at greater risk of contracting coronavirus or dying from it.

Mr Ali said: ‘Our workers are predominantly South Asian, and they know the risks they are taking because they are most at risk of catching coronavirus. But what can they do? They are not rich people and need this money to survive.

He admitted that the company reopened before it was supposed to during the first lockdown, shutting down for only four weeks.

‘We lost around £20,000 per week during that period and had to reopen early. Our workers also wanted to come back. Orders have started picking up again but now this second lockdown has ruined things,’ he added.

Richu Uppal, owner of Cute Girl, which specialises in making clothes for young women said that the company employs 12 people and would continue to operate.

She added: ‘We might be getting some help from the Government but financially, we are in big trouble and so are our workers. We only closed for four weeks during the first lockdown.

‘I know coronavirus can kill but so can hunger and that’s why all of us need to continue working.

Many of the workers inside the small, cramped factory where it was unbearably hot were unable to socially distance while none were wearing face masks or gloves.

Councillor Rashmikant Joshi, who represents the North Evington ward, which has the highest number of coronavirus cases in Leicester and is home to dozens of garment factories said: ‘We are still waiting for all the statistics to completely understand what is behind this increase in coronavirus infections. But the working conditions of many people in Leicester are not good, particularly those who work in the garment industry. I’m in little doubt that this is a contributory factor to the huge surge that we are witnessing

Mohmed Talati, 55, who runs 21 F.C, which specialises in cutting material for garment factories said: ‘We’ll continue to stay open because the factories are going to operate through this lockdown.

‘While that happens, they’ll need material cut for them. There has been very little guidance or advice provided to us. Nobody is sure if we are essential or non-essential and most people have taken the decision to continue operating.

The manager of Easy Fit, which manufactures women’s clothes said: ‘We closed during the first lockdown for four weeks. After that we had to open, even though we weren’t supposed to.

‘Business was slowly returning to normal and now we have this problem. But we can’t afford to close, and our staff can’t afford not to work. It’s as simple as that.

Councillor Rashmikant Joshi, who represents the North Evington ward, which has the highest number of coronavirus cases in Leicester and is home to dozens of garment factories said: ‘We are still waiting for all the statistics to completely understand what is behind this increase in coronavirus infections.

‘But the working conditions of many people in Leicester are not good, particularly those who work in the garment industry. I’m in little doubt that this is a contributory factor to the huge surge that we are witnessing.

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Source: https://news.google.com/__i/rss/rd/articles/CBMie2h0dHBzOi8vd3d3LmRhaWx5bWFpbC5jby51ay9uZXdzL2FydGljbGUtODQ3Nzk4OS9Qb2xpY2UtU1RPUC1kcml2ZXJzLWxlYXZpbmctTGVpY2VzdGVyLWVuZm9yY2UtQnJpdGFpbnMtbG9jYWwtbG9ja2Rvd24uaHRtbNIBf2h0dHBzOi8vd3d3LmRhaWx5bWFpbC5jby51ay9uZXdzL2FydGljbGUtODQ3Nzk4OS9hbXAvUG9saWNlLVNUT1AtZHJpdmVycy1sZWF2aW5nLUxlaWNlc3Rlci1lbmZvcmNlLUJyaXRhaW5zLWxvY2FsLWxvY2tkb3duLmh0bWw?oc=5

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