Thursday, 2 Jul 2020

Alok Sharma hints lockdown extension in Leicester if rules people don’t obey rules

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Alok Sharma explained the Government has provided support to 5,900 small businesses in Leicester as the city is forced to stay in lockdown. The Business Secretary explained he felt the city’s disappointment to continue social distancing as measures are eased for the rest of England on July 4. But he didn’t reveal when the city is likely to reopen as he said the lockdown will be reviewed in two weeks.

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Mr Sharma said: “I think anyone in Leicester will be incredibly disappointed and worried about having to go back into lockdown.

“In terms of support to businesses in Leicester, we have provided 5,900 small business grants to the value of £68million.

“We also have ensured that 30,000 people are protected.

“Jobs have been protected through the job retention scheme and that is going to continue.

“I think the key thing for us is to make sure this lockdown is adhered to and it will be reviewed again two weeks from now.”

“I hope businesses will be able to reopen.”

Boris Johnson is to face a fresh grilling over the Government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic amid confusion over the reimposition of lockdown controls in Leicester.

One hundred days after restrictions came into force across the country, ministers are facing questions over whether they were too slow to act following a flare up in the east Midlands city.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer – who faces Mr Johnson in the Commons at Prime Minister’s Questions – has said people in Leicester were “crying out” for answers and suggested the Government should have moved quicker.

Meanwhile, the British Medical Association (BMA) said the Government needs be “more open and transparent with local COVID-19 data” and over how spikes will be dealt with in future.

Leicester mayor Sir Peter Soulsby criticised the Government and Public Health England (PHE) for delays in sharing case and testing data which showed how the disease was spreading.

And Chaand Nagpaul, council chairman at the BMA, said: “The Prime Minister has talked about a ‘whack a mole’ strategy to tackle local outbreaks, but this is no use if the people leading the response on the ground – be they public health teams or local leaders – are not given the most accurate up-to-date data possible.

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“This is crucial to allow swift action and to protect lives and the health service, and something that is not happening right now.”

Sir Chris Ham, former chief executive of the King’s Fund, wrote in the British Medical Journal’s opinion section: “Even at this stage, it is not too late for the United Kingdom to align more closely with countries like Germany where regional and local leaders have played a significant role in limiting the impact of Covid-19 on the public’s health.

“Local leaders, including devolved governments and elected mayors, are much better placed than the Westminster Government to engage their communities in limiting and responding to future outbreaks.”

Mr Johnson has paid tribute to the people in the city for their “forbearance” in accepting the return of controls including the shutting of non-essential shops and the closure of schools to most children.

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