Sadiq Khan has urged the government to provide more clarity on what powers local authorities have to deal with regional coronavirus outbreaks.
The mayor of London wrote to health secretary Matt Hancock today to ask if councils had the power to implement local lockdowns and for additional resources in the case of localised flare ups.
It comes after Leicester mayor Sir Peter Soulsby today said his city may be forced to extend restrictions on restaurants and pubs for a further two weeks due to a local coronavirus flare up.
Soulsby said the government recommended that England’s current social distancing restrictions, due to be lifted on Saturday, are not lifted for the Midlands city.
The Leicester mayor said it was unclear if local authorities had powers to implement local Covid restrictions or if they were able to veto recommendations from the government.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman today said local authorities and Public Health England “have a range of powers themselves to allow them to contain local outbreaks”.
In his letter to Hancock, Khan said local authorities needed urgent clarity on these powers.
He wrote: “What provision is the government making for the need for local divergence from central legislation?
Khan said he also wanted assurances that “additional resources will be made available to regional and local government to support the management of local outbreaks”.
The mayor also called for Hancock to provide local authorities with the latest government data on coronavirus infection rates, information on the NHS test and trace system and for assurances that “furlough and job support schemes will be flexible enough to support local responses”.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said last month, when he revealed the government’s “roadmap” to easing social distancing restrictions, that localised lockdowns could be implemented to combat coronavirus flare ups.
Home secretary Priti Patel said yesterday that Leicester could be the first city to see a local lockdown, after it experienced a spike in Covid-19 infections.
The Sunday Times first reported that Leicester could be headed back into lockdown, with 658 new cases in the fortnight to 16 June.
The upsurge in cases reportedly comes after outbreaks in food production plants, as well as one hospital.
Speaking to a group of journalists today, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Either the local authority or Public Health England have a range of powers themselves to allow them to contain local outbreaks.
“They can impose temporary closure of public spaces, businesses and venues.
“Local health care facilities also have powers or the ability to stop admissions to hospitals should that be required and the health secretary himself has some powers taken under the coronavirus act.”