While Australians watch on with trepidation as Melbourne’s new surge of COVID-19 infections takes hold, in Britain the city of Leicester, about 150 kilometres north-west of London, has become the new hotspot. With a population of 330,000, Leicester has been put into Britain’s first local lockdown after officials became alarmed by a significant rise in infections.
Non-essential shops, which only recently started trading after a months-long lockdown, will close again, while restaurants and pubs, which were expecting to reopen this weekend, will have to keep their doors shut. School closures will force thousands of students to stay home. For a nation that has suffered more than most – the official death toll stands at more than 43,000 but the true figure could be as high as 65,000 – it’s another setback in the fight against the pandemic.
From the moment the coronavirus reached its shores, Britain’s rambunctious Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has led a government that has bungled the health crisis. When Mr Johnson took to the lectern on March 12 to warn Britain that it was facing the worst public health crisis for a generation, he failed to put the country into an immediate lockdown. Not only did the nation pay a very heavy price for that mistake, but Mr Johnson almost lost his own life after contracting the virus.
Since his return to work, support for his Conservative Party has taken a hit after a string of missteps, while Labour under its new leader, Sir Keir Starmer, a former human rights lawyer, has gained ground. Sir Keir, who has proven more popular than expected, has also put the heat on Mr Johnson in Parliament, exposing the Prime Minister’s bluster about the government’s failed handling of the health crisis.