Leicester: The city that's suffered the longest

Credit: PA Images

by ITV Central Producer, Raheem Rashid

Near constant restrictions have been imposed on Leicester since the first national lockdown last March.

Last summer, as the rest of the country had Covid safety measures eased, residents and businesses in Leicester were forced to stay in and stay shut as a local lockdown was imposed in an effort to curb a rapid rise in Covid cases. It became the first UK city to go into a local lockdown, and has had some form of Covid restrictions imposed ever since.

Local people and businesses are celebrating the news that an end is now in sight, after the Prime Minister announced a roadmap out of lockdown which would see restrictions end on June 21 2021 - nearly 15 months after the city first went into lockdown.

Leicester's pubs and restaurants have had it harder than most. From mid-May, though, eating out could be back on the menu.

Sally Davis has been able to rely on gin sales and online tastings over lockdown but she can't wait for the diners to return.

Steve Brett runs a sports shop in the city centre. For eight of the last twelve months, he's been closed. From April 12th, he should be welcoming customers once more. 

At the Curve Theatre, staff always believed the show would go on. Now, under Boris Johnson's four-step plan, Act 3 should see them back in business.

It's not just the length of its lockdown that the city has suffered from more than most, it has also recorded some of the highest case numbers in the country:

Credit: Leicester City Council
  • When Leicester went into local lockdown last year, politicians were alarmed as cases rose to 135 per 100,000 people. On January 8 2021, during the second wave, cases in the city peaked at 601.88 per 100,000.

Credit: Leicester City Council
  • Along with the rest of the UK, Leicester's second wave also saw a greater increase in the number of hospital admissions compared to the first wave.

How it unfolded:

It meant the city’s bars, restaurants and hairdressers would not open on July 4 along with the rest of the country, and shops that had been allowed to open on 15 June would have to close again from 30 June.

It came as the city saw a sharp spike in coronavirus cases; 10% of all Covid cases in the country that week were recorded in Leicester alone.

Coronavirus testing was ramped up in the area.

More than 9,000 households in Oadby and Wigston in Leicestershire were told to get tested for coronavirus.

It’s after the borough became the area outside of the city with the highest infection rate.

Residents were given leaflets and sent texts from their GP, telling them to get tested - whether they had symptoms or not. 

Credit: PA Images

Then, as the infection rate fell, it was announced only parts of Leicester would to stay in lockdown, as the wider areas of Leicestershire would have their restrictions lifted on July 24.

Credit: PA Images

Two and a half weeks into the local lockdown, patience started to wear thin and public spats broke out between local and national politicians about how and why the city went into local lockdown.

The City's Mayor, Sir Peter Soulsby, claimed he wasn't being shown all of the testing data - information which was being used to make decisions about Leicester's lockdown.

At this point, he claimed the data showed, "it is no longer possible to justify the continuation of the 'lockdown' across the remaining 90% of the Greater Leicester area."

Then, four weeks after it became the first city in the UK to have localised restrictions imposed, and, following a chaotic announcement that trickled in via social media overnight, it was confirmed Leicester’s local lockdown had been partially lifted.

In a late night press release, the Department of Health confirmed from August 3:

  • Bars, restaurants, cafes and hairdressers in Leicester City could reopen

  • So too could cinemas and museums

  • Religious ceremonies would also be able to take place

Though, leisure centres, gyms and pools were not allowed to reopen, and the clinically extremely vulnerable were told to continue shielding.

As the summer progressed, restrictions were gradually, but not entirely, eased.

But, in November, Leicester - along with the rest of the country - went into another national lockdown following a sharp rise in cases ahead of Christmas.

Then, on January 4, following the discovery of a more infectious variant spreading, and a rise in case following Christmas mixing, the city was thrust into yet another national lockdown.

But yesterday, on February 22, the city was, for the first time, shown a permanent plan to get out of Covid lockdown measures - as Boris Johnson announced his 'roadmap' out of lockdown.

England is on a "one way road to freedom," he said, as he revealed his four-step route out of lockdown, which could see all aspects of society reopened by June 21.

He told a Downing Street press conference that the rollout of Covid-19 vaccinations had "shifted the odds in our favour," allowing for a gradual reopening of society, so long as the battle against coronavirus continues to go to plan.

It means:

  • School: Pupils in the city can return from March 8.

  • Pubs, restaurants and nightclubs: Pubs and restaurants will be able to reopen from April 12 at the earliest, but this will be for outdoor seating only. There will be no substantial meal requirement for alcohol orders and the rule of six will still apply.

  • Hairdressers: Personal care providers, like Barrie Stephen, who owns hair salons and barber shops in Leicester, should be able to reopen on April 12:

  • All limits on social contact in the city are due to be removed after June 21.

On this day, the Government hopes to reopen nightclubs, allow large events, and remove restrictions on anything else that did not open after the first lockdown.

Finally then, a return to normality for Leicester.

But why has Leicester suffered so much from covid, perhaps more so than other parts of our patch?

The City Council's Director of Public Health, Professor Ivan Browne, says there are a multitude of potential reasons. For example the number of multi-generational households and type of work the people in the city do.

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