The UK government has come under fire after changing its coronavirus guidelines to restrict travel to and from areas with high levels of the variant first detected in India without notifying the public, local officials or officials. politicians.

The council now says people should only visit or leave eight areas of the council with nearly 2 million residents for essential reasons. Those who live there should avoid socializing indoors, despite national rule changes that took effect on May 17, allowing gatherings inside six people or two households. People should also work from home if possible.

The areas are Bolton, Kirklees, Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley, North Tyneside, Leicester, Hounslow in London and Bedford.

Dominic Harrison, director of public health at Blackburn with Darwen, said in a Tweeter: “The areas concerned have not been consulted, warned, notified or alerted on these directives. I asked to see the national risk assessment that supports this action – it has not yet been provided to us. “

West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin said the change would cause “anxiety and confusion”.

The government is expected to answer questions in the House of Commons on Tuesday on the directions.

The advisory was changed for Bolton and Blackburn on May 14, and for the other regions on May 21.

Thérèse Coffey, the secretary for work and pensions, denied that it was a “stealth lockdown”. It was a call for “greater caution so that we try to control locally the fight against the spread of this variant,” she told BBC Radio Four’s Today program on Tuesday.

She brushed off questions about miscommunication.

“The directives were simply issued at the same time the risk was identified,” she said, promising that the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs would continue to work with local authorities.

She denied that the rapid spread of B.1.617.2, the variant first identified in India, would delay plans to lift most remaining restrictions in England until June 21, allowing mass indoor gatherings. and end the two-meter social distancing rule. .

The government has increased vaccination rates and testing in the eight areas struggling with the new variant with emergency centers that do not require an appointment.

Anyone over 16 who is vulnerable or lives with someone who is can be vaccinated against Covid. The national program in England is open to people aged 32 and over.

Bolton recorded 451 global cases per 100,000 people in the week to May 20, the highest in England.

Experts believe the variant spreads more easily than the original Sars-Cov-2 strain. Studies show that vaccines are effective against it, but those who have only received a single dose only get about 33% immunity.

Across the UK, more than 38 million people have received a first dose of the vaccine, and 22.9 million have received a second, or 43.5% of the adult population.

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