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Lockdown by stealth: Govt warns against travel to west London borough of Hounslow over Indian variant fears

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Cabinet minister has instructed individuals “don’t travel to and from Hounslow” and 7 different areas in England – except it’s an important journey – to cease the unfold of the Indian Covid-19 variant.

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey sought to argue new recommendation had not “come out of the blue” regardless of there being no main Government announcement.

She additionally confronted a sequence of questions over whether or not it meant individuals mustn’t go indoors in pubs and eating places within the eight areas–Hounslow, Bedford, Blackburn with Darwen, Bolton, Burnley, Kirklees, Leicester and North Tyneside.

People are urged to “keep away from travelling out and in of affected areas except it’s important, for instance for work (if you happen to can’t do business from home) or training”.

It additionally advises individuals within the eight areas not to meet inside if attainable, which conflicts with the latest leisure of lockdown guidelines.

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Ms Coffey argued that the brand new steerage was solely formalising what was already occurring at native degree.

She instructed Sky News: “When the Prime Minister talked concerning the points of the Indian variant final week he mentioned that we’d like to be further cautious in sure areas.

“We are in common contact with the councils and communities in that space so this was nearly extra formalising, on the report, the steerage.”

Pressed on why there was no official Government announcement, she added: “We have been working in shut contact. I’m stunned to hear that folks assume this has kind of come out of the blue, it hasn’t.”

It additionally urges individuals within the eight areas not to meet inside, if attainable, which conflicts with the latest leisure of lockdown guidelines and raises questions over whether or not individuals ought to be going indoors in pubs and eating places.

Asked about this, Ms Coffey mentioned: “I don’t consider we’ve got modified any particular guidelines when it comes to hospitality.

“It continues to be about being cautious, about ensuring that we nonetheless protect in impact the 2 metre rule, the air flow.

“I’m assured that our wonderful hospitality business will probably be taking a cautious strategy significantly in these communities as a result of they need to guarantee that we feature alongside the roadmap to restoration.”

Pressed on whether or not it was OK to meet up indoors within the eight areas in a restaurant, she insisted: “The steerage is obvious, do you really want to go inside to meet different individuals. Of course, there will probably be conditions the place individuals do really feel that’s vital.”

She additionally instructed the brand new recommendation was unlikely to delay the ultimate stage of easing lockdown on June 21.

City-wide insurance policies wanted in London

For London, the steerage is all of the extra stunning as restrictions have to date not been imposed at borough degree, with well being chiefs saying a city-wide coverage was wanted against coronavirus given how a lot individuals travel and socialise throughout the capital.

Ministers introduced on the weekend that further coronavirus PCR testing was to begin within the coming days in focused settings and postcodes inside Harrow, Ealing, Hillingdon and Brent.

The new Government recommendation, for Hounslow and the seven different areas throughout England states: “The new Covid-19 variant spreads extra simply from individual to individual. To assist cease the unfold, it is best to take specific warning when assembly anybody outdoors your family or assist bubble.”

“In the areas listed…wherever attainable, it is best to attempt to:

  • Meet outdoors relatively than inside the place attainable.
  • Keep 2 metres aside from individuals that you just don’t stay with (except you might have fashioned a assist bubble with them), this consists of family and friends you don’t stay with.
  • Avoid travelling out and in of affected areas except it’s important, for instance for work (if you happen to can’t do business from home) or training.
  • Get examined twice per week totally free and isolate in case you are optimistic.
  • Continue to do business from home if you happen to can.
  • Get vaccinated if you end up supplied it, and encourage others to accomplish that as nicely

It additionally advises individuals ought to get examined for Covid-19 by arranging to have a PCR check if they’ve signs of coronavirus, take part in surge testing within the native space, and get common fast assessments if they don’t have signs of coronavirus.

The Government was insisting the brand new steerage just isn’t native lockdowns by stealth as the newest strikes, which weren’t highlighted, have been recommendation not authorized restrictions.

However, the BBC reported that not less than two of the councils have been unaware of the brand new recommendation.

No info on it may simply be discovered on the Hounslow council web site.

Dominic Harrison, Director of Public Health, Blackburn with Darwen Council, tweeted: “#Covid19⁦⁦Travel Advisory #localgovareas concerned weren’t consulted with, warned of, notified about, or alerted to this steerage. I’ve requested to see the nationwide danger evaluation which helps this motion – it has not been supplied to us but.”

Yasmin Qureshi, Labour MP for Bolton South East and shadow worldwide growth minister, mentioned: “I used to be not knowledgeable of this and I perceive nor was anybody else in Bolton.

“I’m simply gobsmacked. They’re making such an necessary announcement and so they don’t even have the decency to inform us or inform our constituents.

“This is typical of this Government’s incompetence.”

Layla Moran, chairwoman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus, mentioned updating the steerage with no correct announcement “is a recipe for confusion and uncertainty”.

“Local individuals and public well being leaders in these areas want pressing readability from the Government. Matt Hancock should come earlier than Parliament and make a public assertion to clarify these new guidelines,” she mentioned.

Newly elected West Yorkshire mayor Tracy Brabin added the change may trigger “nervousness and confusion”.

Ms Brabin mentioned she would increase the matter urgently with vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi on Tuesday.

She tweeted: “If Govt are involved we’d like clear steerage and assist not recommendation that would trigger nervousness and confusion.”

A Government spokesman mentioned: “Working with native authorities, we took swift and decisive motion to gradual the unfold of the B1.617.2 (India) variant by introducing surge testing and bringing ahead second doses of the vaccine for essentially the most susceptible.

“We supplied further steerage for these dwelling in affected areas once we turned conscious of the danger posed by the variant, to encourage individuals to take an additional cautious strategy when assembly others or travelling.”