Guidelines on Travel to and from Indian Variant “Hotspots” Changed without an Announcement

Local health chiefs have criticised the Government for advising people against travelling to and from Indian Covid variant “hotspots” without making a formal announcement about the change in guidance. Leaders are particularly irked that the change has been made without a proper risk assessment and without local consultation. The Guardian has the story.

As news spread of the guidance on Tuesday, four days after it was quietly published on a Government website, Dominic Harrison, the Director of Public Health for Blackburn with Darwen council, said local councils had still had no notification from Westminster about it.

Harrison said he was “astonished” that public health chiefs had not been told about the latest advice, which affects millions of people, and that it was “very difficult” to support the advice without seeing the Government’s risk assessment.

He added: “This advice has massive implications for school trips, for hospitality, for people playing football matches, for footfall for small businesses, and for the economic recovery for town centres. The fact that the Government’s just announced it without consultation or evidence is astonishing.

“It does reflect the fact that in relation to our management of surges in areas that have variants, we simply have no strategy at the moment. What we seem to be subject to is random policy announcements.”

Wendy Burke, North Tyneside’s Director of Public Health, said there had been no indication of any additional restrictions when an announcement about extra testing was made last week.

According to the guidance, which appears to have been updated on May 21st and is not law, journeys to and from the affected areas – Bedford, Blackburn and Darwen, Bolton, Burnley, Kirklees, Leicester, Hounslow, and North Tyneside – should be avoided “unless essential”. Exemptions include travel for work, where working from home is not possible, and education.

The guidance affects not only the 1.97 million people in the eight areas but also the millions of people who enter and leave those boroughs every day to go to work, school or for leisure.

The update did not seem to have been accompanied by an official announcement. On Tuesday, Harrison and Burke confirmed local public health directors were unaware of it.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: The Government has done a U-turn on this guidance in the face of complaints by Conservative MPs and a spokesman for the Prime Minister now says the guidance was never intended to be statutory and people must exercise their own judgment about whether to visit the hotspot areas.

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