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COVID-19: Councils say travel not prohibited after meeting government officials over local lockdown fears

Written by on 25 May 2021

Local authorities worst affected by the Indian variant have insisted no further COVID-19 travel restrictions apply to their areas after meeting government officials.

The eight councils affected have said people are still allowed to travel in and out of the areas listed on the government website which were interpreted as having stricter measures placed on them.

There was confusion after the website changed its guidance over the last few days for people living in the areas worst hit by the Indian COVID variant, with health chiefs saying they were not consulted or told about the move.

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Burnham: ‘We have been thrown into confusion’

The local authority areas affected are: Bedford council, Blackburn with Darwen council, Bolton Metropolitan council, Burnley council, Kirklees council, Leicester council, Hounslow council and North Tyneside council.

Directors of public health from all eight councils have now released a statement saying: “Following the national coverage of recently revised guidance we have met with national officials and confirmed there are no restrictions on travel in or out of each of our areas: There are no local lockdowns.”

In areas where the Indian variant is spreading, they said they are “working together to boost testing and vaccination and to support self-isolation”.

“There are sensible public health precautions people can take as individuals in line with the sorts of advice we have all been following throughout the pandemic,” they added.

Their statement came soon after vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi told the Commons people in those areas should avoid travelling in or out of those areas unless necessary, for work or education.

His advice was in line with the changes on the government’s coronavirus restrictions website, which said: “In the areas listed… wherever possible, you should try to meet outside rather than inside where possible; keep 2 metres apart from people that you don’t live with (unless you have formed a support bubble with them), this includes friends and family you don’t live with; avoid travelling in and out of affected areas unless it is essential, for example for work (if you cannot work from home) or education.”

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth accused the government of imposing “local lockdowns by stealth, by the back door”.

Andy Burnham, Labour Mayor of Greater Manchester, called on Tuesday for a minister to make a public statement about the changes.

Sky News understands the latest guidance was provided for Bolton on 14 May and the other seven areas have been added as more data has become available, with the updated guidance becoming widely known about on Monday evening.

Last week, Health Secretary Matt Hancock did not rule out imposing local lockdown restrictions in places worst affected by the Indian variant.

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