Ministers are facing fresh opposition from local authorities over updated travel advice urging people to minimise travel to areas with higher coronavirus cases.
The government revised its official guidance on Tuesday following criticism that it had introduced a lockdown “by stealth” by urging people to avoid all but essential travel to eight Covid hotspots in England.
The original advice, which was not communicated to local leaders, has been replaced by guidance to “minimise travel in and out of affected areas” and “meet outside rather than inside where possible”.
The instruction directly affects 1.7 million people living in eight local authorities – Bedford, Blackburn, Bolton, Burnley, Kirklees, Leicester, North Tyneside and the 런던 borough of Hounslow – as well as many others who had holidays or family visits planned to those areas following the easing of restrictions.
Dominic Harrison, the director of public health at Blackburn with Darwen council, said on Wednesday he did not support the new advice. He posted 트위터에서: “Just to be very clear – I do not support any advice that asks people to ‘minimize’ travel to and from our Borough. Travel advice is the same for the whole of the UK. Travellers just need to take extra to be ‘Covid- safe’.”
He suggested the updated advice was contrary to what had been agreed between local authorities and the government in a meeting on Tuesday, which was that “rules for all local authority areas in the UK would be the same”. He said the agreement was that “extra caution [would be] advised in areas of high variant risk, but the same rules for all – no ‘qualifiers’!”.
Local leaders are concerned that the “minimise travel” guidance will cause further confusion for millions of people ahead of a bank holiday weekend when residents will have booked holidays, restaurants, shopping trips and other leisure activity. One described it as having been “watered down but it’s still a lockdown lite version”.
Local public health teams have told government officials that, although cases are rising in some areas, current data on hospitalisations and deaths do not support the imposition of local-specific restrictions.
A government spokesman said it was not imposing local restrictions, 첨가: “These are not new regulations but they are some of the ways everyone can help bring the variant under control in their local area.”
Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, admitted on Wednesday that the communications around the local guidance “could have been clearer”. He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think it would also be churlish not to say that the communications could have been clearer and this was in essence simply guidance or advice just to remind people living in areas where the level happens to be quite a lot higher than the national average of the sensible things to do.”