The first local lockdown – and therefore a test of whether local lockdowns will be effective in suppressing coronavirus outbreaks – could take place within days, according to senior members of the government.
One pointed out that there has been a surge in cases in Leicester: there were 658 coronavirus cases in the Leicester area in the fortnight to 16 June.
New data on the prevalence of the virus in the area has been delivered to Leicester's mayor Sir Peter Soulsby, according to the LeicesterLive website, and he said his officials were analysing the data over the weekend.
I am told that the data does not yet show that a full lockdown is required.
A senior official said: ‘It would need to be driven by the data and we’re not at that stage right now. We are very actively managing [this] and analysing it at the moment. Time will tell.’
According to LeicesterLive, cases have been reported at the Samworth Bros sandwich factory and a Sainsbury superstore, and five schools have been closed following outbreaks.
Sir Peter has previously said he regards locking down the city as a ‘blunt instrument’ and hoped that would prove not to be necessary.
If Leicester is locked down, it will allow an assessment to be made of whether NHS Test and Trace – the new system for keeping tabs on who has the virus and where, and for quarantining those at risk – can organise localised lockdowns that would contain the spread of the virus while allowing the national economy and society to continue functioning on its current semi-open basis.