UK accused of reintroducing virus restrictions on the sly

UK accused of reintroducing virus restrictions on the sly


LONDON (AP) — The British government faced accusations Tuesday that it was introducing local lockdowns on the sly after it published new guidelines for eight areas of England that it says are hot spots for the coronavirus variant first identified in India.

Lawmakers and local public health officials have said they hadn't been made aware of the changes to travel and social interaction that the Conservative government published online last Friday.

In that updated guidance, it recommended that people within the eight localities, which includes Hounslow in west London, the central city of Leicester and the northwest towns of Blackburn and Bolton, shouldn't meet up indoors or travel outside their areas unless it is for an essential matter, such as going to work.

Blackburn’s director of public health Professor Dominic Harrison said in a tweet that local authority areas affected were “not consulted with, warned of, notified about, or alerted” to the instruction changes.

However, vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said the updated guidance shouldn't be a surprise as it just formalized the outlines of what Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been saying over the past couple of weeks when warning about the so-called Indian variant.

“We want the whole country to move out of these restrictions together and we're trusting people to be responsible and act with caution and common sense as they have done throughout the pandemic," he told lawmakers.

Reintroducing local restrictions goes against the grain of the government’s stated strategy. It has said it wants to lift restrictions on a national basis, without directly ruling out local measures to keep a lid on outbreaks.

Restrictions across England — and the rest of the U.K. — have been lifted over the past few weeks as the number of...

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