Ministers will change the law in order to enforce the local coronavirus lockdown in Leicester, the health secretary has told Sky News.
“We will be bringing forward a legal change very shortly in the next couple of days,” Matt Hancock said.
“Some of the measures that we’ve unfortunately had to take in Leicester will require a legal underpinning.”
Mr Hancock said that “in some cases” the lockdown will be enforced by the police, with legal changes brought in to ensure non-essential retail is no longer open.
The city is reimposing COVID-19 restrictions following a spike in COVID-19 cases.
A total of 10% of all positive cases in the country in the past week have come in the East Midlands city, which means the easing of lockdown across England on Saturday will not take place in Leicester.
Pubs, restaurants, cafes, hairdressers and barbers will remain shut, with people advised against all but essential travel.
Schools will close from Thursday, apart from for vulnerable children and the children of key workers.
Asked how people would be stopped from travelling outside the city, the health secretary replied: “We’re recommending against all but essential travel both to and from and within Leicester, and as we saw during the peak, the vast majority of people will abide by these rules.
“Of course we will take further action including putting in place laws if that is necessary but I very much hope it won’t be.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has talked of a “whack-a-mole” strategy for tackling local outbreaks of the virus.
“The strategy is to allow for the opening up of the rest of the country, giving people their freedoms back where it is safe to do so,” Mr Hancock said.
“But we also need alongside that to take local action where there is a specific flare-up.”
He said there had been “a number of positive cases in the under-18s” detected through coronavirus testing in Leicester.
“That’s why we took the decision, with a heavy heart it has to be said, to close schools in Leicester and in Leicestershire, within the Leicester conurbation.”
Speaking to Sky News, Leicester mayor Sir Peter Soulsby said he has yet to be told what the boundaries of the lockdown will be.
“As yet, the government hasn’t actually announced what it accepts to be the boundary of this lockdown,” he said.
“Actually policing it is going to be something of a challenge until we know actually what the area is to be policed.”
He added: “Whether it’s a blue line on a map or a radius from the clock tower right at the heart of the city, I think we all need to know. As yet, we don’t.”
The exact boundaries are expected to be set out by the government later on Tuesday.
Speaking in the Commons on Monday, the health secretary said Leicester and the surrounding conurbation including Oadby, Birstall and Glenfield would be included.