The Government has been accused of hampering efforts to tackle coronavirus in Leicester after announcing the city will go into the highest tier of restrictions next month.
Leicester’s mayor Sir Peter Soulsby has urged the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to ‘get out of the way’ and let the city council’s public health teams take control bringing infections down.
And he has renewed his call for local officials to be allowed to run the test and trace system.
Sir Peter also revealed to LeicestershireLive that while the DHSC had provided thousands of new rapid lateral flow test kits to roll out mass testing, it has not yet sent vital barcodes that allowed them to be used.
The Labour mayor said: “While Tier 3 was sadly inevitable, we have been hampered in driving the figures down by the time it takes NHS Test & Trace to pass us the names of those they’ve been unable to contact.
“We’re also still waiting for all the kit we need to start rolling out the new, quicker, lateral flow testing programme.
“We had also planned to take the test kits door-to-door in the areas of the city where the virus is most prevalent.
“We did this in the summer when we went into local lockdown and it worked.
“We think it will work again.
“However the Government has said they can only be used on people who go to test centres.
“We need them to get out of the way and let us use our local knowledge and expertise rather than work under overly-centralized control.”
Sir Peter said infection levels were falling, but were still too high.
He said: “People in Leicester have lived with these restrictions for so long, and I thank them for it, but I would urge everyone in the city to stay strong and keep going during the difficult weeks ahead.
“The Government has said that it will review Leicester’s position in two weeks’ time, so if we are able to get the rate down in the next fortnight, we could move out of Tier 3 before Christmas – and that would be good news for all of us.”
LeicestershireLive has contacted the DHSC for comment.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock spoke in Parliament today and thanked a number of local political leaders in other areas that have had high infection rates, including Liverpool and Teesside.
He praised them for the constructive way they had worked with the Government but he did not mention Sir Peter.
Leicester’s infection rate has fallen from 530 per 100,000 in mid November to 415 per 100,000 in the seven days to November 20.
But it still remains nearly twice the national average of 209.2 cases per 100,000 people.
Around 1,500 people tested positive for coronavirus in the seven days to November 20.
The city’s director of public health Professor Ivan Browne said: “Although Leicester’s figures are slowly moving in the right direction, the infection rate here is still far too high.
“Overall numbers are coming down, but we remain very concerned about the infection rate in Leicester – particularly the level of infections in people aged 60 and over, who are more likely to have a serious disease than younger people.
“This is no time for complacency – and no one must think that the development of a vaccine means they can be less vigilant.”
“I’d like to thank all of those who have respected these restrictions for so long, but we simply have to continue to follow the rules, if we are to succeed in reducing the spread of this highly contagious virus over the winter months.”
What are the new rules for the city?
Under the new restrictions from December 2 people in Leicester will no longer be able to meet up with other households in a private garden.
Meetings in parks or other public outdoor places are permitted, as long as no more than six people are present and social distancing is observed.
Mixing in any indoor setting with people from other households is still not permitted beyond support bubbles
People can continue to travel to venues or amenities that are open, but all pubs, cafes and restaurants will remain closed while Leicester is in Tier 3, and museums, cinemas, theatres and hotels – with some exceptions – are amongst the facilities that must also remain closed.
Take-away services, however, can continue.
Non-essential shops, hairdressers, beauty salons, gyms and leisure centres are amongst the facilities that can re-open from Wednesday December 2, although indoor group exercise classes will not be permitted.
As the prevalence of coronavirus in Leicester remains high, people who are clinically extremely vulnerable are advised to take extra care.
The city council says people should continue to:
• wear a face covering when required
• wash or sanitise their hands frequently
• follow social distancing rules
• work from home, if possible
• refrain from visiting anyone else’s home or garden, unless they’re in a support bubble with them
• walk or cycle if possible – and avoid travelling on buses at peak times if possible
• follow the Rule of Six
• limit their contact with other people
• stay at home and get a test at the first sign of coronavirus by calling 119