Leicester remains an outlier in the number of coronavirus virus cases, the Government’s chief medical officer has said.
This week a decision will be taken over whether the city and some surrounding suburbs will remain in the country’s first localised lockdown or whether it will be extended for another two weeks.
That decision is due to be made by Saturday (July 18).
Dr Jonathan Van Tam, the deputy chief medical officer (DMCO) said the situation with positive virus tests in the city is improving but needs to go further.
Speaking to BBC Radio Leicester, Dr Van Tam said: “Leicester is still quite an outlier in terms of the rates of coronavirus infection compared with any other place in the country unfortunately and any other place in the East Midlands.”
Testing for the virus has been massively stepped up in the city over the last fortnight and Dr Van Tam quoted a Public Health England report from Friday (July 11) which said the seven day rate of infection in Leicester was 126 per 100,000 people.
He compared that to Leicestershire where the rate was 17.17 cases per 100,000 people, and Derby and Nottingham which had respective rates of 9.3 and 5.4.
City mayor Sir Peter Soulsby has again questioned what he described as the ‘dubious’ data being used arguing it was two weeks out of date and showed only a few neighbourhoods where there was an issue with rates of transmission.
He said it showed the lockdown had not been justified and could have been avoided.
However, Dr Van Tam said the figures showing Leicester’s higher infection rates were from the four days leading up to July 11 and he said lockdown had been necessary.
The DMCO said it would not be his decision whether the city could be released from lockdown but responded to the mayor’s criticism that the Government had not been clear on the criteria for lifting the current tighter restrictions.
Dr Van Tam said to exit lockdown the disease rate in Leicester had to be constantly falling and ‘sensibly comparable’ to other areas of the country.
He added: “This can’t be rushed.’
The DCMO urged people to continue taking the public health advice – including keeping two metre social distancing, regularly washing hands and wearing face coverings – because this would help get to a position where the restrictions can be lifted sooner.
He addressed the issue that over increased testing showing increased positive results.
He said: “If you do more tests and there is not much disease out there you simply see more negatives but if you do more tests and you continue to see a higher rate of disease if gives you more confidence there is an issue in the local area.
“This is where we are with Leicester and it is going to take a little while.”