Boris Johnson has denied there was a “lost week” while coronavirus was spreading in Leicester as the government was accused of being “slow to act” over local spikes in COVID-19 infections.
Leicester has re-entered strict lockdown conditions – as the rest of England prepares to reopen pubs, bars and restaurants this weekend – with the closure of schools and non-essential shops in the Midlands city.
Public Health England figures show there were at least 45 coronavirus cases per 100,000 people in the week to 21 June in Leicester, with Barnsley, Bradford and Rochdale also among the worst-affected regions.
The data covers all mass COVID-19 testing in England, including those carried out in NHS and Public Health England labs (known as pillar one), plus all community testing, drive-throughs and tests sent to people’s homes (pillar two).
At Wednesday’s session of Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer claimed that local authorities in Leicester only had “half of the data” when monitoring COVID-19 cases.
He claimed that city officials were only given pillar one data and not pillar two, which meant they “thought there were 80 positive tests in the last fortnight when the real figure was 944”.
Sir Keir told MPs: “The local authority was only given the real figure last Thursday.
“So there was a lost week whilst the virus was spreading.”
He urged the prime minister to give a “cast-iron guarantee… that no other local authority will ever be put in that position again”.
Leicester mayor Sir Peter Soulsby has also criticised the government and PHE for delays in sharing case and testing data which showed how the disease was spreading.
In the Commons, Sir Keir asked why the government was “so slow to act” to implement a lockdown in Leicester.
“At the daily press conference on 18 June, the health secretary said ‘there’s an outbreak of COVID-19 right now in parts of Leicester’,” he said.
“Yet it was only on Monday evening this week that the government introduced restrictions.
“That’s a delay of 11 days during which the virus was spreading in Leicester.”
Mr Johnson replied that the “government first took notice and acted” on the spike in infections in Leicester on 8 June.
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