LONDON – The British government is considering closing down the city of Leicester in central England amid escalating cases of COVID-19 – the first time that a single British region has faced such extreme action during an epidemic.
The Sunday Times reported for the first time that the closure could come within days after 658 new cases were registered in the Leicester region in the two weeks to June 16. On Sunday, BBC Home Secretary Priti Patel admitted that the ministers were considering this step.
Patel said: “There will be support to go to Leicester, and in fact, the Minister of Health has been in contact with many of us over the weekend to explain some procedures, test support, and resources that will go to the local authority as well.” “With the outbreak of local seizures, it is true that we have a local solution.”
But Battle did not say how many people could be affected by the local closure being discussed or whether the surrounding area would be affected. Leicester has a population of 330,000.
The hike comes amid concerns over the spread of the disease through the city’s large Asian community, who often live in multi-generational families. The local outbreak underscores the disproportionate blow that the epidemic has inflicted on minority communities in Britain.
Britain has the worst confirmed death toll in Europe from coronavirus infection, with about 43,600 people killed, and the Conservative government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson was strongly criticized for what was seen as a slow and chaotic response to the epidemic.
Britain is now slowly emerging from a comprehensive national shutdown imposed on March 23, with plans to ease things further by early next month. This reopening plan was based on the idea that local outbreaks could be curbed through aggressive programs to track, test, and track casualties.
Now with a future test case, it is becoming clear that implementing such a plan may not be so simple.
Keith Nell, Professor Emeritus of Infectious Diseases at the University of Nottingham, said defining the closure area would be “one of the biggest problems”, as the boundaries of the local authority could walk in the middle of the street.
He said that people will feel confused about who is besieged and who is out.
“The closure at the regional level will be seen as unfair or worse, as Leicester has little to do with rural Lincolnshire countryside,” he said. “People do not know their territorial borders and many do not know where they are,” he added.
Local lawmaker Claudia Webb accused the government of being slow to respond and said local authorities had not been getting the help and information needed to attack the outbreak.
She told the BBC: “What they are doing is giving Leicester bows and arrows to tackle a major epidemic problem.” “This is ridiculous.”