The U.K.’s official death coronavirus death toll stands at 43,659, the highest in Europe and the third-highest in the world after the United States and Brazil. But the country’s infection rate has been falling and Britain is gradually easing lockdown restrictions imposed in March.
Local officials accused the U.K. government of being too slow to act in Leicester, an industrious, multicultural city with two universities and factories making shoes, clothes and potato chips. They said a rise in local infections had been evident for almost two weeks, but the central government had not shared the data promptly with public health authorities in Leicester.
Leicester Mayor Peter Soulsby said “we have not as yet been able to give satisfactory answers” about where the outbreak was concentrated, but that officials were starting to get fuller data to piece together the picture.
“There are some clusters of cases that have been found in some places of work,” he said, amid reports of outbreaks at some of the city’s many garment factories.
The outbreak has put Britain’s much-criticized response to COVID-19 under more scrutiny. Dr. Bharat Pankhania, an expert on infectious diseases at the University of Exeter, said that Britain left lockdown prematurely, at a time in which the virus was still spreading and before track and trace systems were robust enough to act decisively to halt COVID-19’s spread. Besides that, testing systems are neither universal nor extensive.