UK reimposes lockdown on virus-hit city of Leicester

AFP
Britain on Monday reimposed lockdown measures on a city hit by an outbreak of coronavirus.
AFP
UK reimposes lockdown on virus-hit city of Leicester
AFP

Members of Britain's armed forces help people attending a mobile COVID-19 testing center at Spinney Hill Park near the North Evington district of Leicester, central England, on June 29. 

Britain on Monday reimposed lockdown measures on a city hit by an outbreak of the novel coronavirus, in the first big test of Prime Minister Boris Johnson's "whack-a-mole" strategy to control the disease while getting the economy moving again.

Ministers ordered schools and non-essential shops to be closed and postponed the planned reopening of pubs in the central English city of Leicester after an alarming spike in cases of COVID-19.

Britain has suffered the deadliest outbreak of the virus in Europe, with more than 43,000 deaths, but Johnson last month began easing nationwide stay-at-home orders imposed in late March.

Amid warnings he was moving too fast, with infection and death rates falling but slowly, he vowed to clamp down on local outbreaks like the game "whack-a-mole."

Virus-hit hospitals and factories have been shut so far but the measures in Leicester, with a population of 340,000, is the first move to restore lockdown on such a large scale.

"We must control this virus. We must keep people safe," Health Secretary Matt Hancock told parliament after a lengthy meeting with local leaders, some of whom had opposed the measures.

"Local action like this is an important tool in our armory to deal with outbreaks while we get the country back on our feet."

Build, build, build

The dramatic action threatens to overshadow Johnson's big speech on Tuesday setting out how he plans to "build, build, build" to get Britain out of a deep recession brought on by the lockdown.

Johnson said Britain needed the type of massive economic response that former US President Franklin D. Roosevelt mobilized to deal with the Great Depression.

He has earmarked 1 billion pounds (US$1.2 billion) for school repairs and a further 4 billion pounds for "shovel-ready" projects that cover everything for road maintenance to public transport.

In extracts of his speech released by Downing Street, Johnson said his plan "sounds positively Rooseveltian, it sounds like a New Deal."

"All I can say is that if so, then that is how it is meant to sound and to be, because that is what the times demand."

Roosevelt launched the New Deal program in the 1930s that created a comprehensive social care system whose legacy lives on to this day.

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