The Health Secretary said non-essential shops will close from today following a surge in infections. Schools will also be shut again from Thursday, as Mr Hancock confirmed a return to stricter measures. He said the easing of the lockdown planned for the rest of England on July 4 cannot happen in Leicester because of the rising cases.
The East Midlands city, which has a population of around 350,000, has three times as many infections as any other UK city.
Mr Hancock implored people in Leicester to stay at home as much as they can while the local lockdown measures continue.
He told MPs: “Having taken clinical advice on the actions necessary and discussed them with the local team in Leicester and Leicestershire, we have made some difficult but important decisions.
“We’ve decided that from tomorrow, non-essential retail will have to close and as children have been particularly impacted by this outbreak, schools will also need to close from Thursday, staying open for vulnerable children and children of critical workers as they did throughout.”
Matt Hancock announced the lockdown restrictions
He added that the relaxation of shielding measures for vulnerable people, due on July 6, cannot now take place in the city.
“We recommend to people in Leicester, stay at home as much as you can, and we recommend against all but essential travel to, from and within Leicester,” he said.
“We’ll monitor closely adhering to social distancing rules and we’ll take further steps if that is what’s necessary.”
The Health Secretary said the measures will be kept under review and will not be kept in place “any longer than is necessary”, adding: “We’ll review if we can release any of the measures in two weeks.
Coronavirus chart in the UK
“These Leicester-specific measures will apply not just to the city of Leicester but also the surrounding conurbation including, for example, Oadby, Birstall and Glenfield.
“I know that this is a worrying time for people living in Leicester and I want you to know you have our full support.
“We do not take these decisions lightly but with the interests of the people of Leicester in our hearts.”
Mr Hancock announced further measures in Leicester to help tackle the outbreak, including the setting up of a walk-in testing centre for those with coronavirus symptoms.
He said: “Anyone in Leicester with symptoms must come forward for a test.
We’ve decided that from tomorrow, non-essential retail will have to close
“These actions are profoundly in the national interest too because it’s in everyone’s interests that we control the virus as locally as possible.
“Local action like this is an important tool in our armoury to deal with outbreaks while we get the country back on its feet.”
The Health Secretary said reducing social contact will reduce the spread of COVID-19, adding: “Precise, targeted actions like these will give the virus nowhere to hide and help us defeat this invisible killer.”
Shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth, who represents Leicester South, said Prime Minister Boris Johnson has spoken about a “whack-a-mole” strategy to combat coronavirus before adding in the Commons: “We were alerted to the situation in Leicester 11 days ago and now we’ve got tonight from the Secretary of State the whack-a-mole strategy.
Importance of social distancing
“Doesn’t he agree that if we’re as a nation to ease the lockdown smoothly then those areas that do see flare-ups will need greater speed in the response, otherwise we risk no moles getting whacked?”
Leicester mayor Sir Peter Soulsby was reluctant to keep tougher lockdown measures in place in the city when the rest of England is given new freedoms on Saturday.
“What I don’t understand is what a continuation of the restrictions would add,” he said earlier.
“I just can’t see how that could possibly lead to helping our joint effort to contain the virus.”
Leicester recorded 866 coronavirus cases in the two weeks to 23 June and most are believed to be among younger people living in the east of the city.