Non-essential shops in Leicester have closed suddenly as the government imposed the first local lockdown in the UK. Pubs and restaurants hoping to reopen at the weekend also have to delay plans for at least two weeks, while schools will be shut for most pupils.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the city had “10% of all positive cases in the country over the past week”, while the city mayor Sir Peter Soulsby urged people to “stick together” as Leicester tackles a rise in confirmed coronavirus cases.
Shoppers in the city centre had been enjoying a brief return to a sense of normality before the announcement and many were anticipating a visit to a pub or restaurant this weekend.
The news that social plans have to be delayed was greeted with dismay but also a sense of inevitability.
“Out of all the cities why here?” asked Achayla Carr-Brown, who said she had been left flabbergasted.
“I was so excited to go shopping and sit down for food, go out for a drink, but I can’t,” she said.
“It’s upsetting, but in a sense it is better to be safe than sorry, prevention is better than the cure.”
Sophie Gill, a 22-year-old student nurse, said she had been keeping safe anyway so would not be too impacted by the new measures, but was frustrated at how little some people in Leicester had been following rules.
“I didn’t see any change in behaviour after they announced there had been a spike,” she said.
“People did not take it seriously, they got so close in shops.
“[They] might not get ill themselves but they can pass it on to people they don’t know.”
Nader Abouhun owns the Falafel Land takeaway in Leicester city centre.
Despite the lockdown being a blow to businesses like his, which relies on passing trade, the 39-year-old supported the move.
“I’ve been expecting it,” he said.
“I could see people were not respecting social distancing.
“I’m always safe, but this news makes me nervous to come in to the city.”
Wayne Loydall works in a DIY store in the city centre, and said he had frequently seen people not following social distancing guidelines and “pushing by” others.
“I can only speak for Leicester, but the amount of infections comes as no surprise,” the 57-year-old said.
“You are asked to marshal the store and when you ask some people to go down the one-way system, you get shouted at.”
However, Dharmesh Lakhani, who runs a restaurant in the Golden Mile area of Leicester, said he was “very disappointed” by extended lockdown measures, and questioned figures quoted by Mr Hancock.
“[Leicester having 10% of new cases] seems like an astronomical number,” he said.
“Are we not doing testing in other cities? It just makes you wonder.”
With Leicester now set to follow different guidance from the rest of England, Mr Lakhani said extra effort was needed to reinforce the rules.
“Are people being briefed in enough languages?,” he asked.
“We all know we have a fantastic, diverse city, but are the messages getting across?”