Leicester shoppers were seen ignoring social distancing as they battled for reduced food at an Asda – as the city prepares to find out today if it is coming out of lockdown.
At least seven bargain hunters – one of whom does not appear to have a mask – were filmed pushing against each other to reach a small section of shelving as they frantically load reduced items into bags.
Jack Stafford, who recorded the video, said: ‘The Asda colleague was stacking the reduced section then as soon as she stepped away there was a mini-riot to grab what they could. No social distancing whatsoever.’
Leicester has been in England’s first local lockdown since July 4, and although the infection rate has dropped from an alarming 135 per 100,000 to the current 53.2, this is still the third highest in the country.
The video was filmed on the evening of July 28 at the Asda Thurmaston Superstore in the city’s northern suburbs. In the footage an onlooker can be her complaining of people ‘grabbing’ and having ‘no manners’.
Leicester’s infection figures for July 20 to 26 show the rate is still high but falling, raising the prospect that Boris Johnson will lift strict local restrictions when he announces his decision this afternoon.
The figure of 53.2 infections per 100,000 puts the city at the third highest in England, below Blackburn with Darwen on 85.9 and Oldham on 54.3.
Ministers have been urged to ‘release Leicester from its chains’ and allow the city to join the rest of England in reopening non-essential shops including bars, restaurants and hairdressers. Gatherings of more than six people are also banned.
Yesterday, Lord Bach, the police and crime commissioner (PCC) for Leicestershire, led calls to lift the lockdown as his colleague, Lord Campbell-Savours, read his speech in the Lords because he had been forced to stay at home.
Lord Bach highlighted a decrease in positive Covid-19 tests, adding: ‘The seven-day infection rate has fallen dramatically at a time when huge amounts of testing are taking place. It’s time to release Leicester from its chains.
‘People and businesses who have followed the lockdown to the letter are entitled to their freedom. It’s now up to HMG (Her Majesty’s Government) to do the right thing by Leicester later this week.’
A decision is expected at 4pm over the lockdown, which was partially eased earlier this month.
Health minister Lord Bethell said progress is being made, adding: ‘The decision on the future of the Leicester lockdown will take place on July 30.’
Conservative former minister Lord Robathan, formerly an MP for a Leicestershire constituency, said the infection spread ‘largely in cramped sweatshops’ in the city.
He said: ‘They stayed working illegally throughout the crisis, illegally paying workers much less than the minimum wage and certainly with some illegal immigrants working there, who did not speak English nor indeed know their rights.
‘This has been going on for many years, a fact which public authorities – including some MPs in Leicester – have turned a blind eye.’
Lord Bethell replied: ‘Covid shines a spotlight on uncomfortable places in our society.
‘The use of exploitative labour in sweatshops has contributed to this disease. It isn’t good enough and it needs to stop.’
Public health chiefs are now scrambling to avoid imposing similar restrictions on Oldham in Greater Manchester after 119 positive cases in the past seven days in the town of 235,000 people.
Residents in Oldham have been told not to allow any visitors into their homes for the next fortnight and to keep two metres apart when in public.
Visits to care homes – now permitted in parts of England – are to remain banned, and people shielding have been told to remain indoors for another fortnight.
Ahead of Eid tomorrow, which in normal times would see widespread celebrations in Oldham’s Muslim community, worshippers at the town’s mosques are being reminded about the new rules at the five-times daily prayers.
Debbie Abrahams, Labour MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth and a former public health consultant, said the spike demonstrated the Government had lifted lockdown too quickly.
‘I warned the Prime Minister at the end of June that lifting restrictions before we had a fully operational contact tracing scheme in place at a time when high levels of infection were still in circulation was a risk,’ she said.
‘Unfortunately, this is the consequence – it was a wholly irresponsible decision.’
Currently infection levels in Oldham stand at less than half the rate which saw Leicester become the first part of the UK to return to lockdown last month, but officials acted quickly due to the speed of the surge.
The new restrictions follow similar responses to local spikes 20 miles away in Blackburn with Darwen and in neighbouring Rochdale.
Shoppers in Oldham were yesterday coming to terms with the latest clampdown.
‘The vast majority of people are wearing masks and doing their bit, so I don’t think it’s fair that we’re having to put up with new rules when it’s not our fault,’ said Marina Edwards, 53, from nearby Shaw.
‘I think it’s the teenagers who are spreading it, you never see most of them wearing masks.’
Mother-of-four Lynn Foy, 59, from Oldham, said: ‘It’s going to be hardest for the elderly if families still can’t visit them – it’s very frightening for them.’
Abdul Basit Shah, of Oldham Mosques Council, said: ‘We are advising people not to visit family members over Eid but to greet them over social media instead,’ he said.
‘The Muslim community has already made sacrifices as a result of Ramadan falling during lockdown, but we are urging them to continue to do their bit for the sake of Oldham as a whole.’
Arooj Shah, deputy leader of Oldham council, blamed the infection rate on poverty and living conditions rather than ‘behavioural’ factors.
‘We’re a diverse community, we take great pride in that,’ she told BBC Radio 4’s World At One. ‘I don’t think this is an issue around ethnicity.
‘I think it has a lot to do with socioeconomic and health inequalities that need addressing.
‘I think it’s absolutely linked to poverty.
‘The significant number testing positive from our South Asian communities is a fact, but we know these communities are more likely to work in high-risk occupations and live in larger households with multi-generational occupation.’
The council is now calling on the Government to supply more information about the jobs of those who contract coronavirus as well as data on those who test negative to help it tackle the outbreak.