Boris Johnson fails to rule out returning to local lockdowns
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As the Indian coronavirus variant continues to cause concern across the UK, the government has been accused of imposing “lockdown by stealth” in eight areas where the variant has found to be spreading rapidly. Downing Street has denied this and said it is trying to encourage an “extra cautious approach” as the variant appears to spreads more easily.
Which areas are under restrictions?
The eight areas affected are:
- Bedford Borough Council
- Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council
- Bolton Metropolitan Borough Council
- Burnley Borough Council
- Kirklees Council
- Leicester City Council
- London Borough of Hounslow
- North Tyneside Council
What are the rules?
In the eight areas above, the rules are:
- You should meet outside rather than inside where possible
- You should keep two metres apart from people that you don’t live with (unless you have formed a support bubble with them) – this includes friends and family you don’t live with
- You should avoid travelling in and out of the areas unless it is essential, for example for work (if you can’t work from home) or education
- You should get tested twice a week
- You should work from home if you can
- You should get vaccinated when called
Is this law or advice?
A Downing Street source said this was just advice, not law, and that all the areas had proceeded with step three of England’s roadmap out of lockdown on May 17.
But anger in the areas is growing.
Yasmin Qureshi, Labour MP for Bolton South East and shadow international development minister, said she had not been informed and was “gobsmacked” by the updated guidance.
She said: “They’re making such an important announcement and they don’t even have the decency to tell us or tell our constituents.
Ms Qureshi said many people would have made plans to travel over the bank holiday weekend.
She said it was “not clear” whether “this is advisory or legally obligatory” and described the move as “incompetence” on the part of the government.
Blackburn with Darwen’s director of public health Dominic Harrison said the affected areas “were not consulted with, warned of, notified about, or alerted to this guidance”.
Work and Pensions Secretary Thérèse Coffey told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the advice was “just about sensible extra caution and [trying] to get a grip locally with tackling the spread”.
Does the vaccine work against the Indian variant?
There is increasing confidence that the vaccines work against the new India variant.
A study has found that both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccines are highly effective against the variant.
Two jabs of either vaccine give a similar level of protection against symptomatic disease from the Indian variant as they do for the Kent one.
However, both vaccines were only 33 percent effective against the Indian variant three weeks after the first dose.
This compared with 50 percent effectiveness against the Kent variant.
Public Health England, which ran the study, said the vaccines are likely to be even more effective at preventing hospital admission and deaths.
The Moderna vaccine has also been used in the UK since April but the study said the numbers who had received it were too small for them to include it in their research.
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