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COVID-19: Leicester hoping lockdown roadmap will finally lift devastating grip of virus on city

Written by on 23 February 2021

Lockdown has been grim but Leicester has been in a suspended animation of near constant restrictions since the beginning of the pandemic.

On the streets in the city centre, a grey drizzle envelops a weary population shopping for essentials. The cost of the lockdowns – although they’ve never really ended here – has taken its toll.

Single mum Lina Hussain, 28, and her four kids know all about life on hold.

She lives in a one-bedroom flat and can’t wait until it’s all over.

“Obviously it’s put my mental health a bit down all the time, obviously indoors looking at four walls quite a lot… I’m looking forward to being able to go back to see my family, being able to see everyone again.”

Lina Hussain Image: Lina Hussain says lockdown has affected her mental health and she’s longing to see family again

This is a place where COVID has held a deadly grip – one of the worst affected local authorities in the country.

Despite the tough measures about nine in every 100 people have tested positive for the virus.

Boris Johnson’s roadmap is certainly more cautious than the easing of the lockdown last time around.

With a five-week gap between each new stage of opening up, it will be at least early summer before people here feel anything like remotely free from the tangle of rules that have been governing their lives.

The government will point to places like Leicester as a reason for the slow reopening.

Barrie Stephen Image: Salon owner Barrie Stephen has 50 staff furloughed and says the pandemic has been ‘devastating’

But Barrie Stephen, who owns five hair salons and two barber shops and has 50 staff furloughed, is eager to get back to business.

“From the outset my main objective was to have businesses to go back to and keep all my people in jobs, so I’ve been very focused on that.

“Of course it knocks you around, I guess it’s just taking each day as it comes. And we’ve really tried hard to engage with the team to check in with them – make sure they’re okay and also engage their clients as well regularly, but it’s devastating.”

The trail of COVID-19 is felt across this city and as the lifting of restrictions gets closer people are wondering if things will ever return to the way they were.

Anisha Karolia Image: Gym owner Anisha Karolia says she feels powerless as many of her members are ‘really struggling’

Anisha Karolia, a gym owner and mum of two, says the impact on mental health has been enormous.

“It’s really frustrating you know, you just want to get started.

“As a gym owner you’re there to help people impact people’s lives in a positive way and in lockdown you can’t… When they message me and they say I’m really struggling and I can’t do anything.

“I feel really at a loss, all of those emotions that are going on, just the frustration.

“At some point you just have to switch the news off and stop looking because you’re looking for something, for some hope that things are going to go back to normal.”

Leicester Image: The economic and mental scars in Leicester are likely to last some time

The end of lockdown may be nearing but for places like Leicester there is perhaps more misery on the horizon – economic and mental anguish.

The hope here, though, is that they will be able to pick up the pieces when the virus has finally released its cruel grasp.