The question was never if, but when would we start seeing regional lockdowns being implemented in regions which were seeing an uptick in Covid-19 cases. Already at the start of June I wrote about the rising R value in a number of regions across England and how Matt Hancock had proposed regional lockdowns as a response.
Well, starting from today the people of Leicester will have to knuckle down for a further 2 weeks of lockdown, meaning many bars, restaurants and hairdressers will not open on the 4th of July as planned. The lockdown covers the city of Leicester as well as the surrounding suburbs of Oadby, Birstall, Thurmaston and Glenfield.
The announcement comes after Leicester City Council said that “944 cases were reported in the last two weeks”, a worrying trend given that their total Covid-19 cases since the start of the pandemic is 3,216.
The argument surrounding lockdown has always been finely balanced between maintaining public and economic health: open too soon and you risk damaging the former, open too late and you risk devastating the latter.
That being said, in opening too soon when the virus is still rife the government will successfully damage both: namely, the premature easing of lockdown in England has resulted in Leicester seeing an upsurge of Covid-19 cases which has left the city yo-yoing in and out of lockdown. The knock-on effect is that this city now faces further economic stagnation as well as a lack of public confidence in returning to the shops in future – after all, restoring the economy, and life more broadly, to ‘normal’ requires the confidence that the virus is under control.
Questions still remain as to how a meaningful local lockdown will actually be enforced – I assume many will now simply drive to nearby Loughborough, Nottingham or Coventry for all their shopping and drinking needs…
A lot has been said about the government’s response to the pandemic and at every turn they have repeated the same platitudes: it’s “premature” to make judgements about the government approach; it’s “too early” to make international comparisons.
However, the fact remains that an earlier lockdown would likely have saved countless more lives and prevented further economic turmoil. Given the government’s handling of the pandemic it hardly comes as a surprise that Leicester finds itself in this situation, but that’s not to say it had to be like this – if the government had acted sooner and more effectively in the first place a regional lockdown may never have been necessary.
Ultimately, the local lockdown in Leicester gives us a pretty good indication as to how the government is planning on dealing with future spikes and second waves of the virus. Cities like Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham may well find themselves dealing with a local lockdown of their own and will likely use Leicester as the blueprint for the response.