With ’10 per cent’ of all positive COVID-19 cases coming from Leicester in the last week, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has confirmed stricter lockdown measures will be enforced in the city.
Over the last few weeks, lockdown has been slowly easing across the UK, with the big milestone of pubs, restaurants and salons reopening in England due on Saturday 4 July. However, easing of restrictions has always come with the caveat that the path back to normality may be stopped, and even reversed, if there are a surge in coronavirus cases. Whilst the idea of the entirety of the UK returning into full-lockdown has not been abandoned, nor has the present danger of a full second peak of infections, the government have confirmed that there could be localised lockdown measures introduced if there are spikes in certain parts of the UK.
The people in Leicester are once again being told to stay at home as much as they can, alongside avoiding all but essential travel both in and out of the city. Furthermore, non-essential shops, which have only just reopened for the first time in three months, once again are being told to shut. The planned reopening of bars will also not be taking place, which has come as a massive disappointment to those who had made arrangements to once more accept in new clients.
Speaking in the House of Commons on Monday, Hancock outlined that ‘targeted action’ at factories, workplaces and schools had not worked in the city, which means that stronger measures will now need to be implemented. It currently remains unclear why Leicester has seen such a spike, with its Mayor, Sir Peter Soulsby, admitting that he wishes the government had taken action sooner as it became apparent cases were rising.
The actions currently planned include evaluating the workplaces that have seen a cluster of cases and offering them assistance in implementing more stringent COVID-19 guidance. In the meantime, whilst it remains unclear what has caused this spike in Leicester, it sends a clear warning to organisations across the UK that coronavirus remains a present danger, and that they themselves could face a localised lockdown situation over the coming months.
It is therefore essential that organisations keep up to date with the latest government guidance on reopening the workplace, maintaining social distancing measures and keeping their staff safe. It is also important that they pre-plan for a situation where they do have to return to lockdown. For example, can staff remain working from home for now, or be asked to return to this working arrangement quickly if necessary?
Organisations can also consider continuing to make use of the Job Retention Scheme. However, they should make sure they remain eligible to do so and understand the expected changes to its funding up until the end of October.