Leicester’s mayor responded to the partial easing of lockdown restrictions by accusing the Government of attempting to penalise the city’s businesses and residents.
Commenting to media gathered at Leicester’s City Hall, Sir Peter Soulsby criticised Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s decision to keep some restrictions in force across the Labour-run city of Leicester and Liberal Democrat-controlled Oadby and Wigston.
Sir Peter said: “They have chosen to focus on the city geographical area – effectively the area of the county that votes Labour, and that’s just scandalous.
“If they were going to alter the boundary, they should have gone down to the area that they now know where the virus is.
“They have left two areas in there – one that has a Liberal Democrat council, the other that has a Labour mayor.”
Sir Peter added: “The fact is they have focused in a way that is clearly party political and that’s not a way to deal with the virus.
“That’s not a way to deal with the people who will be very angry and very frustrated that they are being punished for the way in which they voted.”
He went on: “I am determined of course to continue to focus on what the data now does tell us – to continue to focus on the neighbourhoods, the streets, the households, where we now know there is the virus.
“They are prepared not just to penalise this city, but also to penalise its economy.
“Because right at the start of this, there were promises from the Secretary of State that there would be a financial package – compensation scheme – for our businesses that are being held back.
“Now two weeks on, he’s still not delivering on that promise.
“That obviously is a matter of great concern to me and those who care about the future wellbeing of this city.”
Meanwhile, the city’s three Labour MPs all gave reactions to the announcement on social media.
Leicester West MP Liz Kendall tweeted: “People across Leicester will be v disappointed that whilst non-essential retail can now open our hospitality sector can’t & travel restrictions still apply. I’ll continue to push for extra support for our businesses & public services & to get our infection rates even further down.”
Her counterpart in Leicester South, Jonathan Ashworth, tweeted: “Leicester stays in lockdown & we have no clarity of how we will be released.
“Our local health officials need more testing data & we must increase testing locally. And we need the public health advice why city stays lockdowned but neighbourhoods next to city can be released.”
Claudia Webbe, the MP for Leicester East, wrote on Twitter: “Its disappointing many parts of Leicester will remain in #LeicesterLockdown.
“However, high rates of positive testing particularly in parts of the city with high levels of deprivation, poverty and inequality remains. In defeating the virus we cannot return to business as usual.”