ANXIOUS Brits were last night wondering where the next local lockdown will be after Leicester was put under restrictions due to a spike in coronavirus cases.
The dramatic surge in the East Midlands city was yesterday being blamed on sweatshops employing up to 10,000 labourers.
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An almost empty train station in Leicester due to local lockdown restrictionsCredit: SWNS:South West News Service
Workman in Leicester disinfects a city centre bench after spike in coronavirus casesCredit: Reuters
Around 200 such factories, which pay workers as little as £3 an hour to churn out cheap fashion, are believed to have been operating in Leicester throughout lockdown.
Many of the workers also live 20 to a house, making it even easier for the disease to spread in shared bathrooms and kitchens.
It has emerged that Bradford is next on the Government’s “watchlist”. Barnsley, Rochdale and Oldham are also being monitored.
They are all reporting around 40 cases per 100,000 residents — nowhere near Leicester’s rate of 135.
A government source said: “It’s not spreading more there because of skin colour but because of living arrangements and workplaces.”
Yesterday Leicester was a ghost town as its shops shut again for another two weeks — just as the rest of the country was preparing to open up this weekend.
Last night only a few people were seen in the streets of the city centre, all wearing face masks.
Residents voiced their concerns to The Sun. Marley Bless, 41, said: “I’m really scared about what’s happening.
“I’ve been taking precautions and thought I could see the light at the end of the tunnel, but this spike has worried me.”
Magda Raszowska, 34, added: “It’s frustrating, obviously. It’s like we’re going back to March.
“Closing schools, closing shops again. It’s scary, it just shows how a second wave can be not far off.”
Jacob Donald, 21, a mechanical engineering student at De Montfort University, said he was not surprised at the lockdown as people had been acting as if “it’s normal times again”.
He said: “People have stopped following the guidelines and there’s little social distancing. We’ve been hearing more parties recently in gardens.”
In contrast to the city centre, local supermarkets were busy yesterday as hundreds of people rushed to load up with essentials.
As staff struggled to keep shelves stocked, shopper Jaqruei Laiseta, 65, said: “Last time, I couldn’t get anything — no pasta, no milk, no flour. It was really worrying.
“I can’t afford to stockpile loads because I’m on benefits, but I’m terrified we will be left with nothing again.
“Lots of people are here and it frightens me that no one is cleaning their hands or their trolleys when they enter the shop and staff can’t force them to.”
Rina Green, 66, said: “I’m shopping for my aunt with chronic asthma. My friend spoke to me this morning and said she can’t get any loo rolls.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock placed Leicester back into lockdown after other measures failed to contain the outbreak.
Officials had recently ramped up testing for residents and spent 11 days working with factories that experienced spikes.
Masked couple walk through deserted shops in the cityCredit: AFP or licensors
A government source said: “The garment and textile factories in Leicester have been a particular problem.
“We have found the immigration status of many of the workers in the affected factories is highly questionable.
“We are encouraging them to come forward for testing so we can identify infections as fast as possible but they are anxious.
“The Home Office has said none of them will be deported during the pandemic. The focus at the moment is public health.”
Legal food and clothing factories have also been hit by the bug, with workers unwittingly taking the virus home to their children.
Andrew Bridgen, Tory MP for North West Leicestershire, said a “perfect storm” of factors contributed to the outbreak.
He added: “We have the biggest ethnic minority population of any city, so you have multi-generational households where the young people have probably been out socialising in breach of the lockdown.
“On top of that there is quite a substantial food processing industry.
“And on top of that you have got a very large garment industry which my sources are telling me has worked for busy internet retailers throughout lockdown.”
Dr Bharat Pankhania, from University of Exeter Medical School, said: “Sweatshop conditions are a nightmare for infection control and a breeding ground for the likes of coronavirus.
“You have lots of people crammed into a tight space, with poor ventilation and a noisy environment.
“If they are allowed to speak, they will have to talk loudly over the sound of machines, which sprays droplets further.
“They are likely to employ extremely vulnerable people who will be scared to come forward for testing.”
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Leicester mayor Sir Peter Soulsby admitted there is an issue with “illegal manufacturers” in the East Midlands city but said he had not seen any data linking them to viral “hotspots”.
Residents are being advised to stay at home as much as possible and to avoid all but essential travel.
Police revealed they will issue fines as a last resort for those who breach the lockdown measures and travel from Leicester to Nottingham to shop or visit pubs this weekend.
The surge was blamed on sweatshops employing thousands as modern-day slavesCredit: EPA
Shops must shut again for another two weeksCredit: PA:Press Association
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