Coronavirus: Handling of Leicester lockdown 'led to confusion'

  • Published
Alert signs in LeicesterImage source, PA Media
Image caption,
Dame Mary Ney said "there was some confusion about the nature of the restrictions" at the beginning of the Leicester lockdown

The government's handling of the UK's first local lockdown led to "confusion" and "misinformation", a report said.

People in Leicester were confused as there was a lack of "a single clear message", the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government's (MHCLG) report said.

It added the government failed to produce a map of the affected areas, leading to fake maps circulating.

A spokesperson said the government responded "rapidly and decisively".

The city's lockdown was announced by Health Secretary Matt Hancock on 29 June.

In the report, MHCLG non-executive director Dame Mary Ney said of the announcement "there was some confusion about the nature of the restrictions (not helped by "loose use of the term 'lockdown')".

She also said there was confusion over "the timing of commencement of the measures and the geographical reach".

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced the Leicester lockdown on 29 June

A geographical map of the areas affected by the local lockdown was not provided until the day after Mr Hancock's announcement.

Dame Mary said: "Misinformation and speculation circulated on social media and there was a lack of a clear message.

"It hampered the ability to support local businesses."

She added the government should consider using a checklist before announcing further lockdown restrictions, which could include a map, details of the restrictions, and the timing of the measures coming into force.

During the lockdown, Leicester mayor Sir Peter Soulsby criticised the government for not sharing data on infection rates quickly enough with the city council.

In July, he said it had taken "weeks" to "finally get some useful data" from authorities.

Dame Mary wrote in the report that work to improve the availability of data was ongoing.

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby was critical of the lack of data shared with the local authorities at the beginning of the lockdown

She also commended the city council for its work to share lockdown information with businesses, local communities and in different languages.

The report highlighted the 2,000 volunteers who were recruited to help across the city in roles such as delivering home test kits.

Sir Peter told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: "Lessons have been learned, we haven't yet seen anywhere subject to the same level of restriction that Leicester was with schools and businesses closed.

"In that sense, what happened here has helped other areas."

Upon publication of the report, housing minister Robert Jenrick said he had asked colleagues in Whitehall to "weave the learning" from the report into "longer term work streams in this area".

A government spokesperson said: "We have responded rapidly and decisively to outbreaks with a range of local and national measures.

"We are constantly reviewing our responses to build our understanding of how to manage future outbreaks."

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