NORTH TYNESIDE: ‘No travel restrictions, no local lockdown’
North Tyneside’s top public health boss has confirmed there are “no restrictions” on travel in and out of the borough and “no local lockdowns”.
There has been widespread confusion and anger since it emerged that North Tyneside was one of eight areas which the government said should be avoided “unless it is essential” due to outbreaks of the fast-spreading Indian strain of Covid-19.
That stricter guidance was published on the government’s website, seemingly last Friday, without any official announcement and without local officials being informed.
It was only when the change on gov.uk was spotted by journalists on Monday that the shift came to light, meaning that people had continued to travel freely over the weekend without knowing that they apparently weren’t supposed to.
Council officials from the eight affected areas met with the government on Tuesday in an attempt to clear up the situation.
Wendy Burke, director of public health for North Tyneside issued a statement afterwards confirming that there are in fact no restrictions on travel – though it remains unclear at this stage whether the advice against travelling will also be scrapped.
The Local Democracy Reporting Service understands that the eight councils have asked the government to remove that guidance from its website, or at least clarify it.
Ms Burke said: “Following the national coverage of recently revised guidance we have met with national officials and confirmed there are no restrictions on travel in or out of North Tyneside. There are no local lockdowns.
“In areas where the new COVID variant is spreading we are all working together to boost testing and vaccination and to support self-isolation. There are sensible public health precautions people can take as individuals in line with the sorts of advice we have all been following throughout the pandemic.
“We will keep sharing that and working with national officials to make sure people understand what they need to think about as they go about their daily lives.”
Ms Burke herself was totally unaware of the change in the guidance on Monday, telling a ChronicleLive Facebook Q&A that afternoon that it was “certainly okay to visit the area”.
The debacle has sparked fury among other local leaders, with North Tyneside MP Mary Glindon accusing the government of creating “unnecessary panic”.
Coun John-Paul Stephenson, Newcastle City Council’s cabinet member for public health, branded the lack of communication “incompetence of the highest order”.
The advice on gov.uk 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” and try to avoid socialising indoors.
The guidance applied to North Tyneside, Bedford, Blackburn and Darwen, Bolton, Burnley, Kirklees, Leicester, and Hounslow.
Leicester has gone further in its criticism of the advice, saying that its publication was “incorrect”.
The city’s public health director, Professor Ivan Browne, said “there are no restrictions on travel in or out of each of our areas and it was a mistake to suggest there was”.
Words: Daniel Holland, Local Democracy Reporter
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