Government U-turn over advice to 'avoid' travel to and from Northamptonshire neighbours

Wording changed to 'minimise' journeys to and from Bedford and Leicester

By Kevin Nicholls
Wednesday, 26th May 2021, 12:27 pm
Updated Wednesday, 26th May 2021, 12:28 pm

Government ministers backtracked over guidance on travelling between Northamptonshire and two neighbouring areas with surging Covid-19 infection rates.

Friday's change warning people to avoid going between Northamptonshire and Leicester or Bedford went largely unnoticed.

It sparked a storm when even the eight local authorities identified claimed they had not been informed of any change amid claims ministers were imposiving local lockdowns by stealth.

Many people scrapped plans for half-term trips at short notice.

But the wording was changed last night (Tuesday) asking people to "minimise" journeys rather than "avoid travelling in and out of affected areas unless it is essential."

There was concern local lockdowns were being imposed "by stealth" after the government's website changed its COVID guidance over the last few days for eight councils without announcing it, saying people should not travel in or out of the areas unless necessary.

The change came just hours after vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi told the Commons that people should avoid travelling unless necessary in and out of areas with high numbers of cases linked to the fast-spreading B.1.617.2 Indian variant.

Updated advise is to "minimise" travel between Northamptonshire and Bedford — rather than "avoid unless necessary"

Northamptonshire's public health director Lucy Wightman also said Friday's change in guidance was "common sense."

Two areas of Bedford Borough currently have infection rates around 700 per 100,000 per week after seeing 143 positive tests in the seven days up to May 20.

A statement from the local council last night said: Bedford Borough Council, it said: "Following the coverage of recently revised guidance we have met with national officials and confirmed there are no restrictions on travel in or out of Bedford borough: 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."