Leicester has a large Asian population, predominantly made up of large, multi-generational households. BAME people are known to be at far greater risk from the virus.
The Government has consistently said it will consider regional and local lockdowns if necessary, and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has deployed four mobile testing sites to Leicester and made thousands of home testing kits available.
A spokesman said: “We are supporting the council and local partners in Leicester to help prevent further transmission of the virus.
“We urge the people of Leicester to continue to practice social distancing, wash their hands regularly, get tested immediately if they have symptoms and follow the advice they receive if contacted by NHS Test and Trace. This advice is there to protect communities and save lives.”
Mr Hancock has reportedly been examining the legality of imposing regional lockdowns, with the Sunday Times reporting that he is “quite worried” by the surge and considering “all options”.
However Sir Peter Soulsby, the Labour Mayor of Leicester, said it would be difficult to draw up boundaries for a lockdown.
Speaking to the Leicestershire Live website, he said: “Where would you even start with such a lockdown? Would you lock down the entire city? Would you include [outlying suburbs] Oadby or Birstall?”
Scientists also warned that imposing local lockdowns would be difficult, particularly defining the boundaries of restrictions amid the sprawl of most British cities.
Keith Neal, Emeritus Professor of the Epidemiology of Infectious Diseases at the University of Nottingham, said: “If Leicester is locked down, how much of the surrounding area do you include?
“A quick view of the satellite picture demonstrates this problem. Much of the surrounding area probably does not identify as part of Leicester city itself.
“Local authority boundaries can run down the middle of the street, with one side in one local authority and the opposite in another.
“Urban sprawl has allowed towns and cities to expand, resulting in these areas often joining other areas who identify differently and do not see themselves as part of the expanding town or city.”
Some MPs said Leicester was suffering because the Government had eased lockdown restrictions too early.
Claudia Webbe, the Labour MP for Leicester East, tweeted: “The Government is drip-feeding the truth. A local lockdown is on the cards for Leicester.
“A city where the minority make up the majority; thus a city where its residents are disproportionately at risk from Covid-19. The Government’s rush to ease lockdown is reckless.”