The government’s decision to lock Leicester down, closing all non-essential retail from today and schools from Thursday for all but the kids of key workers and vulnerable children, is a hugely significant moment. The government’s whole Covid-strategy relies on replacing the sledgehammer of a national lockdown with far more targeted local interventions. Leicester will be the test of whether those interventions can prevent the virus from going regional and then national when there’s already transmission of it in the community. (The successful effort in Weston-super-Mare was about stopping an outbreak spreading from a hospital into the community).
If the Leicester lockdown succeeds in stopping the virus spreading out from the city to the rest of the Midlands, then it’ll suggest that the government’s approach of sending in mobile testing labs and contact tracing teams can work. It will indicate that it should be possible this winter to avoid the disaster of either a second national lockdown or a resurgence of the virus across the UK. But if this action doesn’t work, then it will be back to the drawing board for the government.