By ITV Central Producer, Raheem Rashid
Leicester’s local lockdown has been partially lifted, four weeks after it became the first city in the UK to have localised restrictions imposed upon it.
The Department of Health has confirmed from Monday 3rd August:
Bars, restaurants, cafes and hairdressers in Leicester City can reopen
So too can cinemas and museums
Religious ceremonies will also be able to take place
And all local restrictions currently in place in the neighbouring borough of Oadby and Wigston will end
Social gathering restrictions will remain in place in Leicester City
And leisure centres, gyms and pools will stay shut
In a post on social media, the MP whose constituency includes Oadby and Wigston welcomed the news:
But, one of the biggest stories of the night turned out to be the way in which the news was announced.
The Labour MP for Leicester West beat the Government's own press office - announcing which rules would be relaxed well over an hour before the official Department of Health press release:
A long time coming?
It's somewhat welcome news for the Leicester City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby.
For weeks, he opposed the Health Secretary's blanket, city-wide lockdown - branding it as "unnecessary and unjustified.”
He hit out, claiming to have seen data that showed only 10% of the city had higher transmission rates.
It is no longer possible to justify the continuation of the “lockdown” across the remaining 90% of the Greater Leicester area.
Then, this week he said:
...we will be making the case that a crude city-wide lockdown is not the best way to proceed.
But it's not just local politicians who've expressed a desire to end the restrictions.
Even the Government’s own backbenchers have been calling for the lockdown to be lifted.
Conservative MP Neil O'Brien, whose announced restrictions in Oadby and Wigston would be lifted, recently told ITV Central the lockdown should end.
The local lockdown has been in place for a month - having been announced on the evening of Monday 29th June.
It was after 866 people tested positive for the virus in the two weeks leading up to July.
The spike accounted for 10% of the country's entire coronavirus cases.
It meant the city’s bars, restaurants and hairdressers would not open on July 4 as planned, and shops that were allowed to open on 15 June had to close again from 30 June.
Schools closed to most pupils from 2 July, and the relaxation of shielding planned for 6 July did not happen.
At the time, the Health Secretary said the local lockdown was to try and crackdown on rising numbers in the city, and that a review would take place every fortnight.
Then, two weeks later, a review did indeed take place.
On Thursday 16th July, Matt Hancock announced Leicester City Centre and Oadby & Wigston would remain in lockdown, while wider areas of Leicestershire would have their restrictions lifted on July 24th.
Some children could go back to school
The city council was given the power to close shops
Social gatherings remained limited to 6 people
Limits on travel were kept in force
The hospitality sector stayed closed
The relaxation of some strict measures has come as welcome news for many locals and businesses.
Residents in some areas who didn't think the number of people testing positive for coronavirus merited their lockdown status have spent weeks lobbying their councillors.
Back when the first Review took place, Nick Rushton, the leader of Leicestershire County Council, admitted "everyone in Oadby and Wigston will be disappointed."
I know everyone in Oadby and Wigston will be disappointed they are not coming out of lockdown yet, but it is so far above the national average for cases that we have to remain cautious. I understand why they have campaigned vigorously not to be in lockdown and I hope that the current improvements will bring that closer.
Meanwhile, the Government has announced a £3 million package of support to help appease businesses hit by the lockdown in Leicester.
Though some have expressed doubt about the reach of Government help:
Jennifer Thomas, from the Federation of Small Businesses, Leicestershire