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6th July 2020

Science Coronavirus: Inches from freedom on Leicester’s lockdown frontier

Science Coronavirus: Inches from freedom on Leicester’s lockdown frontier


science Belinda Blair

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Belinda Blair was “gutted” she would not be able to celebrate her mum’s birthday this weekend, but said “if it’s for the sake of saving lives then so be it”

Leicester’s local lockdown has left an invisible dividing line. While people on one side will soon to be allowed to go to the pub or get a haircut, those on the other side face tougher restrictions than before. BBC News spoke to some of those living on the borderline.

Sue Smith gets a good view of the lockdown boundary – it extends to the bottom of her garden.

“We could climb over the fence and be free,” she joked. “But we won’t.”

Mrs Smith, 57, and her husband Denis have not left their house in Thurncourt in 15 weeks because Mr Smith, 70, has been shielding.

They had been planning on going for their first walk as restrictions eased.

But now they cannot leave the bottom of the cul-de-sac and turn right except for essential journeys, as that is where the boundary lies.

“So near and yet so far,” said Mrs Smith. “This further lockdown is disappointing but necessary.”

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Mr and Mrs Smith were looking forward to a short stroll to the neighbouring village, which is now out of bounds except for essential journeys

The government announced on Monday that Leicester’s residents would face a stricter lockdown, while restrictions are eased elsewhere.

But there was some confusion over the exact boundary, which is not signposted on the roads.

The BBC spoke to two residents of the surrounding streets on Wednesday who believed they were out of the lockdown zone until they were shown their houses fell inside it.

Mrs Smith’s neighbour Belinda Blair, 38, said she expected this situation would arise a lot.

She said it had taken considerable effort to determine whether she lived in the lockdown area, with the government’s initial map suggesting they were outside it, before Leicestershire County Council’s postcode checker said they were not.

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The houses on the right of this image are on lockdown, those on the left are not

Ms Blair, who has three children, said the family had received no official guidance.

“I must have spent an hour on social looking through comments,” she said. “Everyone was trying to find out – it was not clear.

“It should have been better explained.

“It needs to be a clearer boundary than my garden fence – what’s stopping it from spreading those couple of feet?”

Directly on the other side of that fence is Pat Evans. Her house is not within the boundaries of the city and is instead part of the county.

Although other parts of Leicestershire, such as Oadby and Wigston, have been included in the lockdown area, Scraptoft has not.

From Saturday, Mrs Evans will be allowed all the same new freedoms as the rest of the country, despite being separated from Ms Blair by only a few planks of wood.

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Mrs Evans could now travel around the country and have friends over if she wanted because of her postcode

But the 67-year-old has decided she would act as if she were still on lockdown because “the virus doesn’t care about 12ft”.

She said: “If I had to choose I would say we should be on the same level of lockdown as Leicester. This isn’t really a different place.”

Officials have recognised the drawing of the boundaries was an “imprecise science” and said it had to be done rapidly.

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Venugopalan Chevari lives outside the lockdown zone, but has to drive into Leicester to get out of his estate

Some people were surprised to find out they did not live in the lockdown zone.

Venugopalan Chevari lives on a new estate in Hamilton.

The estate is just outside the boundary, but residents have to drive through the lockdown zone in order to leave.

“Every day people have to drive through the lockdown zone,” he said. “Everyone who lives on this new-build estate depends on the city centre.”

He said he had been “surprised” to find his property did not technically fall into the lockdown zone.

“We’re just a metre away,” he said.

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There was some confusion about whether people could cross the bridge at Leicester Forest East service station

Even Leicester Forest East service station was said to be divided by the new coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

The leader of Leicestershire County Council, Nick Rushton, told people not to cross the bridge between the northbound and southbound sides but Welcome Break, which runs the service station, said that information was incorrect and both sides were open.

Mr Rushton said: “We’re very aware there are concerns about the lockdown boundary, but it’s important to remember the current situation is a reminder to all of us across the city and county to stay vigilant.

“Therefore, it makes sense to step up restrictions in areas closer to the city and the boundary drawn up is based on the latest data from Public Health England.

“Although we’re not seeing a link with the surge in city cases, the lockdown zone within the county does fall in line with areas where we’ve seen higher numbers and we’re continuing to regularly monitor the situation.”

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Do you live, work or run a business in the area? How will this affect you? Share your experiences by emailing haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk.

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