Shelagh Fogarty 1pm - 4pm
Parts of Leicestershire freed from additional lockdown restrictions today
18 July 2020, 07:53
Parts of Leicestershire will be freed from additional lockdown restrictions from today following a review by public health experts, the Government has said.
Areas outside of Leicester City and the borough of Oadby and Wigston will align with national lockdown rules in England from Saturday.
It means non-essential shops, bars, restaurants and hairdressers not in the continuing protected zone will be permitted to open.
Schools and childcare settings outside the protected area will also be able to open from today, in line with national restrictions.
But businesses and people living in Leicester City and the borough of Oadby and Wigston will have to wait longer to see their additional restrictions lifted, due to a higher prevalence of coronavirus, the Government said.
Non-essential shops and schools in these areas will be allowed to open from July 24, but bars, restaurants and hairdressers will stay closed, with a review due to take place by August 1.
Thanking the people of Leicester for following public health advice, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: "I know the past two weeks have been difficult for those living in and around Leicester, especially those who have been shielding for so many weeks.
"While we are not yet in a position to lift all the restrictions in place, we are now able to take cautious steps to allow areas outside of Leicester City and the borough of Oadby and Wigston to fall in step with national guidelines and introduce some relaxations within the City of Leicester and the borough of Oadby and Wigston.
"I realise that this will be frustrating for those areas that remain under additional restrictions and I am determined to be straight with you all, we will ease restrictions as soon as the data shows that it is safe to do so."
The Government said shielding advice remains in place for the entire area of Leicester, including where restrictions have been eased.
It said the changes to measures follow a fall in the seven-day infection rate and the percentage of people testing positive for Covid-19, but warned they remained above the national average.
People were reminded to continue to socially distance, regularly wash their hands and self-isolate and get a test if they develop coronavirus symptoms.
Details of the Government's changes come after Leicester's mayor criticised the Government for taking a "sledgehammer approach" to the city's lockdown.
Sir Peter Soulsby, who previously claimed that data provided to city officials highlighted that only 10% of Leicester had shown higher transmission rates, said he was "bitterly disappointed" Mr Hancock's initial announcement on Thursday.
He accused the Government of making a "party political" decision to keep city-wide restrictions.
"They have chosen to focus on the city geographical area, effectively the area of the county that votes Labour, and that's just scandalous," he said.
According to data published on Friday, Leicester's rate of new coronavirus cases per 100,000 population dropped from 126.1 in the seven days to July 7 to 92.9 in the seven days to July 14.
It was 132.3 in the seven days to June 30.