The Mirror understands at least five Leicester garment factories which reopened during lockdown have been forced to close again due to outbreaks of the virus among their workers.
A local lockdown has been imposed on Leicester tonight by Health Secretary Matt Hancock after a spike in coronavirus cases in the city.
The situation comes as the rest of England moves to ease restrictions on places of social gathering such as pubs and restaurants from next Saturday, July 4.
A source said: “One of these factories had more than 20 cases including the owner himself.
“The owners tried to deal with it but eventually they sent their workers to be tested. This is part of the surge in cases the government is talking about.
“Workers have not been furloughed and, when these factories closed, they had no money and so they went to other factories to find work. That is what is spreading the disease.”
Many remaining garment factories have had to close their doors to new workers and are operating at reduced capacity due to the need to introduce social distancing.
Saeed Khilji, chairman of the Textile Manufacturers Association of Leicestershire told the Mirror: “There are many cases among the garment manufacturers. A number of manufacturers have had to close down operations.
“If the council thinks it is necessary then we will support closing all factories for two to three weeks to contain the outbreak.”
Mr Hancock told MPs tonight that non-essential shops in Leicester will close from Tuesday and schools will shut to most pupils from Thursday.
The Health Secretary told MPs the easing of the lockdown planned for the rest of England on July 4 cannot happen in Leicester because of rising cases.
He said: “Given the growing outbreak in Leicester, we cannot recommend that the easing of the national lockdown set to take place on July 4 happens in Leicester.”
Mr Hancock said Leicester has three times the number of coronavirus cases as the city with the next highest total.
The Health Secretary advised people from Leicester to stay at home as much as they can while the local lockdown measures continue.
He told MPs: “Having taken clinical advice on the actions necessary and discussed them with the local team in Leicester and Leicestershire, we have made some difficult but important decisions.
“We’ve decided that from tomorrow, non-essential retail will have to close and as children have been particularly impacted by this outbreak, schools will also need to close from Thursday, staying open for vulnerable children and children of critical workers as they did throughout.
“Unfortunately, the clinical advice is that the relaxation of shielding measures due on July 6 cannot now take place in Leicester.
“We recommend to people in Leicester, stay at home as much as you can, and we recommend against all but essential travel to, from and within Leicester.
“We’ll monitor closely adhering to social distancing rules and we’ll take further steps if that is what’s necessary.”
Mr Hancock said the measures will be kept under review and will not be kept in place “any longer than is necessary”, adding: “We’ll review if we can release any of the measures in two weeks.”
The Health Secretary told the Commons: “These actions are profoundly in the national interest too because it’s in everyone’s interests that we control the virus as locally as possible.
“Local action like this is an important tool in our armoury to deal with outbreaks while we get the country back on its feet.”
But Shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth, who represents Leicester South, said Prime Minister Boris Johnson has spoken about a “whack-a-mole” strategy to combat coronavirus before.
Mr Ashworth added in the Commons: “We were alerted to the situation in Leicester 11 days ago and now we’ve got tonight from the Secretary of State the whack-a-mole strategy.
“Doesn’t he agree that if we’re as a nation to ease the lockdown smoothly then those areas that do see flare-ups will need greater speed in the response, otherwise we risk no moles getting whacked?”