The Government has finally responded to questions about confusion caused by an update to Covid guidelines quietly made on Friday night which has caused ‘anxiety’ and ‘concern’ for people and businesses in the city and county today.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said it will update guidance and provide ‘advice on additional precautions’ rather than imposing ‘local lockdowns by stealth’, as accused by Leicester South MP Jon Ashworth earlier today.
Leicester was one of eight areas listed on gov.uk where extra guidance apparently applied due to the fast spread of the Indian Covid variant.
LeicestershireLive has made repeated attempts to clarify the situation throughout the day but only heard back from the DHSC at 7pm when a spokesperson said: “We will be updating the guidance for areas where the new Covid-19 variant is spreading to make it clearer we are not imposing local restrictions.
“Instead, we are providing advice on the additional precautions people can take to protect themselves and others in those areas where the new variant is prevalent.”
Last night and all through today the gov.uk ‘Coronavirus: What you can and cannot do’ web page has stated that people should try to “avoid travelling in and out of affected areas unless it is essential, for example for work (if you cannot work from home) or education”.
The line caused concern and confusion with those in the city taken back to last year’s shock local lockdown announcement.
Hundreds of people have been asking LeicestershireLive whether they could still visit the city to shop, eat out and visit pubs and hairdressers and beauty salons.
Families who have breaks booked for next week’s half-term and scheduled visits with loved ones ahead of the bank holiday weekend were also left in limbo.
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Shops, restaurants and bars were packed over the weekend as hospitality opened up indoors for the first time in months and 8,000 fans were at the King Power stadium to see Leicester City face Spurs on Sunday.
It led to a House of Commons showdown between Mr Ashworth and health minister Nadhim Zahawi and a crunch meeting between council officials and Government representatives.
The DHSC’s statement continues to say: “This includes, wherever possible, trying to meet outdoors rather than indoors, keeping 2 metres apart from anyone you don’t live with and minimising travel in and out the area.
“These are not new regulations but they are some of the ways everyone can help bring the variant under control in their local area.”
Background provided with the statement added: “We have been clear that people in these areas should recognise the extra risk posed by the variant and exercise their judgement. The PM set this out multiple times during his press conference on 14 May, and government ministers have reiterated that message since then. We urge everyone in these areas to exercise caution to minimise their own risk and protect others.”