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The home secretary has confirmed that Leicester could be the first city to go into a local lockdown, over reports of a spike in COVID-19 cases.

Priti Patel, when asked on BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show whether the city was going to see new restrictions imposed, said: "Well, that is correct.

"We have seen flare-ups across the country in recent weeks, in just the last three or four weeks in particular."

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said on Sunday that Leicester was an area of concern and urged residents to be vigilant against the virus.

It stopped short of saying a local lockdown was likely, but The Sunday Times reported that Health Secretary Matt Hancock had been examining legal aspects of the shutdown following a rise in cases.

There have been reports that the Leicester area had 658 new cases in the two weeks to 16 June.

Public Health England, however, says there have been 50 cases reported in the city in the 10 days to 26 June, taking the total to 1,046 since the start of the pandemic, but that figure does not include the results of tests which are carried out by what PHE calls commercial partners.

The DHSC said extra testing facilities would be provided in the city as part of efforts to boost the test and trace system.

Pressed on the Leicester lockdown, Ms Patel added: "There will be support going into Leicester and in fact the health secretary was in touch with many of us over the weekend explaining some of the measures, the support on testing, resources that will go into the local authority as well.

"With local flare-ups it is right we have a localised solution in terms of infection control, social distancing, testing and many of the tools actually within the Public Health England space which will come together to control the virus."

Reports of a spike in cases have prompted alarm in the city’s BAME community.

Many of the cases are reported to have been in east Leicester, which, like the city, has a large South Asian-origin population.

Office for National Statistics figures have shown that BAME populations have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, with the chance of death significantly higher.

Leicester East MP Claudia Webbe told the LeicestershireLive website her constituency should be put into local lockdown.

She said: "Schools have had to close in Leicester East because of coronavirus and a supermarket had to close. We know the problem is in Leicester East, not spread across the city… I don’t know how it would work but they have to implement a local lockdown."

A DHSC spokesman said: "We are supporting the council and local partners in Leicester to help prevent further transmission of the virus.

"We have deployed four mobile testing sites and made thousands of home testing kits available, to ensure anyone in the area who needs a test can get one.

"NHS Test and Trace will contact anyone testing positive to help them identify their recent contacts and advise who may have been near to someone with the virus to stay at home to prevent the spread.

"We urge the people of Leicester to continue to practice social distancing, wash their hands regularly, get tested immediately if they have symptoms and follow the advice they receive if contacted by NHS Test and Trace. This advice is there to protect communities and save lives."

According to Sky News analysis of PHE data, the number of cases occurring in Leicester in the last fortnight is well behind many other towns, cities and local authority areas.

It raises the prospect of potential local lockdowns in other areas.

Former government chief scientific officer Sir Mark Walport told Sky News it would be necessary to "clamp down" as clusters begin to reappear.

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He said: "The… thing that is becoming clear now is that when outbreaks occur, they typically occur in clusters and we’re seeing certain work environments, for example food-processing factories, as being fairly common places for those clusters to arise.

"In Korea for example, they found that places of worship were places that clusters have arisen and the common denominator being indoors, being crowded, being there for prolonged periods of time and noisy environments where people are coughing and shouting and so there is more droplet transmission.

"And so, again, it comes back to local control being really important to identify those clusters when they happen and clamp down on them quickly."

© Sky News 2020