The British government was last night forced to make an embarrassing U-turn on advice it had sneaked out before the weekend imposing a virtual lockdown on eight Indian variant hotspots.
Officials said on May 25 that they were “not imposing local restrictions” and urged people to use their common sense.
The new rules apply to Bolton, Blackburn, Kirklees, Bedford, Burnley, Leicester, Hounslow and North Tyneside but are not legally binding.
“We will be updating the guidance for areas where the new Covid-19 variant is spreading to make it clearer we are not imposing local restrictions. Instead, we are providing advice on the additional precautions people can take to protect themselves and others in those areas where the new variant is prevalent,” a spokesman for the government said.
Residents in these areas need to maintain social distancing, not meet people from outside their families and not to meet outdoors but do not need to cancel planned holidays.
Leicester’s director of public health, Ivan Browne, said the restrictions were shambolic and unnecessary.
“We had an urgent meeting with Government reps and other affected local authorities today, after we became aware that the Government had updated its website to include specific advice around Leicester and some other areas where the new Covid-19 variant has been identified as spreading,” he said.
“These officials confirmed there are no restrictions on travel in or out of each of our areas and it was a mistake to suggest there was. There are no local lockdowns and there is no justification for Leicester to be treated differently to the rest of the country. No-one from the Department of Health and Social Care or Public Health England contacted us about this advice, to explain the rationale behind it or give any other information.
“As it stands, Leicester has lower rates of the variant than other parts of the country, and we have a plan in place for stepping up our vaccination rate as agreed with the Government last week,” he added.
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