INDIAN variant hotspots are NOT being put back into local lockdown and people are still allowed to travel in and out, a Cabinet minister insisted today.
Sheepish transport secretary Grant Shapps apologised for "confusion" caused by the shambolic announcement of new guidance for high infection areas.
🔵 Read our coronavirus live blog for the latest updates
In a grovelling statement he admitted No 10 had mucked up its communications, leading many people to cancel plans over fears of more restrictions.
There was chaos yesterday as new rules on the Government website appeared to restrict freedoms in towns and cities hit by the new strain.
They warned people not to travel in and out of those places unless for "essential" reasons like school and work.
And ministers also advised tighter social distancing, like only meeting up with friends and family outdoors.
It was issued for people in Bedford, Blackburn, Bolton, Burley, Kirklees, Leicester, Hounslow and North Tyneside.
Local leaders and MPs were left stunned when they discovered the new guidance, which was dumped on the Government website on Friday evening.
There was no public announcement, and they didn't find out until Sunday night when journalists started to flag the change in rules.
Last night the advice was updated to say people should minimise travel in and out of hotspots, rather than avoid it altogether.
On a call with local leaders yesterday Health Security Agency chief Dr Jenny Harries said ministers didn't mean to imply there were new local lockdowns.
Mr Shapps admitted that "it would be churlish not to say the communications could have been clearer" to reassure people more.
And he insisted the actual law on Covid restrictions is the same in the eight hotspot areas as it is everywhere else in the country.
The transport secretary said: "We're not imposing any further local lockdowns at the moment. There's some additional advice and guidance issued.
"Common sense tells you if you're living in an area which has an infection rate which is much higher than the national norm then it's sensible to remind people about the steps they should think about taking.
"If we didn't offer any guidance, support, advice, I think people would rightly say why didn't you say anything.
"The key thing is this is not a new lockdown – these are not new laws, it's just a piece of advice."
Mr Shapps said the Government had intended to communicate the new guidance in a targeted way through local health authorities.
But health chiefs in the affected area have insisted they weren't told about the updated advice.
He said: "The point of this was to liaise with the local health authorities and get the message out locally.
"Somehow the message didn't quite get out is my understanding. The upshot is there has been some degree of uncertainty.
"I'm really sorry that it has disrupted people's plans. Clearly there's some confusion here.
"We'll make sure communication with local health authorities in particular works better in future."
The Government was today panned by critics, who said the botched announcement had caused caused chaos.
Lib Dem MP Layla Moran said the last 24 hours had been an "utter omnishambles".
She added: "The Government's mixed messaging has only caused confusion and uncertainty for people. Clear messaging is badly needed, and sorely lacking."
Source: Read Full Article