Covid-19: UK’s ‘Little India’ town Leicester facing first local lockdown
There was concern over messaging by the Boris Johnson government that continues to caution people about the prevalence of coronavirus, but has also announced re-opening several sectors of the economy from July 4. Quarantine plans for air passengers are also due to be relaxed next week.Updated: Jun 28, 2020, 18:55 IST
The town of Leicester in the east Midlands – known as ‘Little India’ due to its large population of Indian heritage – is facing the first local lockdown due to growing infections in recent days, while public places elsewhere in England are due to re-open on July 4.
According to Health secretary Matt Hancock, there has been an ‘outbreak’ in Leicester, but local mayor Peter Soulsby on Sunday said data was yet to be shared before the decision to impose local lockdown could be implemented.
There was concern over messaging by the Boris Johnson government that continues to caution people about the prevalence of coronavirus, but has also announced re-opening several sectors of the economy from July 4. Quarantine plans for air passengers are also due to be relaxed next week.
Home secretary Priti Patel on Sunday confirmed reports that Leicester could be placed under a local lockdown, while Claudia Webbe, Labour MP from Leicester East that has a large concentration of Asians, called for the lockdown due to a “perfect storm” of poverty, positive tests and higher ethnic diversity.
She told BBC: “I don’t know why they’re not enforcing a lockdown - the evidence suggests there should be one.”
Local businessman Uday Dholakia told HT: “Considering the diverse majority communities in Leicester, communication and conveyance of trust has been short of expectation. In a real global crisis, the local media , politicians and community stalwarts have been preoccupied with issues like the Gandhi statue, important though that is”.
“The public intervention, although commendable at national level, has been patchy locally. Many of the business and community support networks have been systematically destroyed. Exclusion in all facets of life is obvious to see; Covid-19 has brutally exposed it”, he added.
Four mobile testing units have been pressed into service in the town, as Soulsby called for more tests to be carried out. Reports said nearly 25 per cent of 2,494 cases there had been reported in two weeks before June 16.
Ethnicity-wise figures for Leicester are not available, but latest figures from NHS England put the category of ‘Indian’ patients who died from the virus at the top of non-white casualties: 763. The figure would include those from London and other areas.
Patel and other ministers continued to caution people over gathering in large numbers after reports of illegal music parties and Liverpool football fans congregating in large numbers to celebrate the club’s win last week.
Wales first minister Mark Drakeford criticised the Johnson government’s messaging for England: “My concerns with the UK Government are sometimes less with the substance where I think we are all broadly trying to do the same things. I’m more concerned at the messaging”.
“Here in Wales, I am very keen to continue to say to Welsh citizens: Coronavirus has not gone away. It remains something that kills people in Wales every day. If you don’t stay on top of it you will see things going backwards. And everything we have done together thrown away”.
“And that’s a very different message I think to the message across the border. Where the message seems much more, you know, that it’s all over and you can go back to doing everything as you did before”, he told Sky News.