United Kingdom government denies local lockdowns ‘by stealth’

Elias Hubbard
May 26, 2021

New advice against non-essential travel from regions across northern England, the Midlands, and London has put half-term holiday plans in doubt.

Boris Johnson said in a press conference on Friday 14 May that he'd "urge people" in Bolton to "think twice" about staying over with family and friends and that people in the most affected areas "should recognise the extra risk of disruption with this new variant".

People should avoid travelling into and out of the hotspots, with Bedford, Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley and North Tyneside also on the list, while residents in the eight areas - almost two million people - should also be tested twice a week, according to the Government advice.

Officials said areas including Bolton, Leicester, Kirklees and the London borough of Hounslow were hardest hit and people there should not meet indoors. Hounslow is next to Heathrow airport.

This announcement is said to have been made "without warning" and has caused confusion.

"That's what this new guidance notes - and importantly this is not a change in the law, but a reinforcement of the ask for caution".

Avoid travelling in and out of affected areas unless it is essential, for example for work (if you can not work from home) or education.

The Department of Health said the advice encourages "people to take an extra cautious approach" in hotspots, added the BBC.

Confusion reigned on Monday evening when it emerged that the government had quietly updated its website to reflect stricter guidance for people living in eight areas of the country where the B.1.617.2 variant is most prevalent.

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey was asked on ITV's Good Morning Britain whether people in these areas should go on half-term holidays already booked to a "green" list foreign destination such as Portugal.

She tweeted: "If Govt are concerned we need clear guidance and support not advice that could cause anxiety and confusion".

"The green list is there... because we recognise the amount of transmission in that country is very low, so the risks of bringing the variant back into the United Kingdom are very low, and that's why we have the process that we have".

Yasmin Qureshi, Labour MP for Bolton South East and shadow worldwide development minister, told the BBC that she had not been informed and was "gobsmacked" by the updated guidance.

"I'm just gobsmacked. They're making such an important announcement and they don't even have the decency to tell us or tell our constituents".

The U.K. government has denied it is imposing local lockdowns by the backdoor after failing to publicize changes to health guidance in areas affected by the so-called Indian variant of coronavirus.

Local health chiefs said they were not consulted or told about the move and on Tuesday afternoon all affected councils said they had spoken to government officials who said people are still allowed to travel in and out of those areas.

However, the government did not formally announce the updated guidance for those areas.

"It seems crucial lessons have still not been learnt about the importance of clear messaging during a pandemic".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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