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Leicester first UK city back in lockdown as rise in virus sparks alarm

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Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits a science room under construction at Ealing Fields High School, in west London, Britain, June 29, 2020. REUTERS/Toby Melville/Pool

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits a science room under construction at Ealing Fields High School, in west London, Britain, June 29, 2020. REUTERS/Toby Melville/Pool

REUTERS

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits a science room under construction at Ealing Fields High School, in west London, Britain, June 29, 2020. REUTERS/Toby Melville/Pool

Leicester has become the first city in Britain to be plunged back into lockdown after public health officials expressed alarm at a significant rise in Covid-19 cases.

Shops that only reopened on June 15 have been ordered to close from today, schools will be shut from Thursday to all but vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers. Pubs and restaurants will remain shut on July 4 and a proposed relaxation of shielding on July 6 has been cancelled.

The lockdown will cover the whole of one of Britain's biggest cities as well as parts of Leicestershire including Oadby and Birstall and is expected to remain in place until at least mid-July.

The decision was announced in parliament last night by Matt Hancock, the health secretary. He said: "We recommend against all but essential travel to, from and within Leicester."

It will cause alarm in Downing Street that localised lockdowns - with the damaging economic impact that entails-- could become the new normal as part of its so-called "whack-a-mole" strategy to fight the virus.

The action is so sensitive for the British government that its announcement was repeatedly postponed last night, as a succession of meetings were held with cabinet ministers and local officials.

Mr Hancock said the seven-day infection rate in Leicester was three times higher than the next-highest city.

Leicester accounts for around 10pc of new infections in the country.

He said the actions were "profoundly in the national interest", adding: "We said we would do whatever it takes to defeat this virus."

The news came as it emerged today will also see an announcement from prime minister Boris Johnson on his 'New Deal' for the British public.

Mr Johnson's bid to rebuild the post-Covid British economy centres on a plan borrowed from Depression-era America. Mr Johnson promised to detail his unapologetically "Rooseveltian" focus on jobs, skills and infrastructure in a major speech intended to move the national debate away from lockdown and on to the future of the UK.

Mr Johnson will promise that: "[The UK] will not just bounce back, we will bounce forward - stronger and better and more united than ever before."

He will pledge billions of pounds for roads, hospitals, schools, houses, railways, prisons and broadband to "build our way back to health" by fostering economic growth.

In a speech in Dudley, West Midlands, in a former "red wall" constituency won from Labour at the last election, the premier will make it clear that it and other deprived parts of the country will be first in line for money to rebuild.

Meanwhile, the UK's National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (Nice) yesterday ruled that there is no good evidence that vitamin D protects against coronavirus.

In April, health officials urged everyone to take a vitamin D supplement in order to boost bone health amid concerns that lockdown was depriving most people of enough sunshine.

A number of studies have suggested those lacking the "sunshine" nutrient are more likely to develop Covid-19.

But today Nice said the evidence in such research was "low quality" and failed to adjust for other factors, such as excess weight or underlying health conditions.

However, health officials stressed that taking a daily supplement was still advised to protect bone and muscle health. They are particularly concerned that those who have been "shielding" may have been deprived of the nutrient after months indoors.

Sunlight is the primary source of vitamin D, which is essential for the absorption of calcium and healthy bones. asla;lsa;lsa

Irish Independent