Lockdown confusion for East Lancashire

Local leaders have reacted with anger over lockdown confusion sparked by government advice to people living in Blackburn with Darwen and Burnley not to travel out of the area.

Last Friday, a notice was posted to the government website warning against "non-essential travel" in and out of areas which it had identified as having high rates of the new Indian variant of Covid-19. These included Blackburn with Darwen and Burnley.

This advice has now been amended, with residents requested to "minimise" travel in and out of the eight areas.

The walk-back follows a passionate response from within the areas involved, with claims that councils had not been consulted or warned in advance.

Kate Hollern, Blackburn's MP, said after the initial announcement: "On Friday night the government rolled out lockdown-lite through the back door. The guidance is likely to have major implications on businesses, schools and the hospitality sector and I'm furious that the government hasn’t bothered to consult the local authorities involved.

"If the government continues on this path, it must be ready to provide whatever financial support necessary. That means support for Blackburn's businesses, self-isolation support that matches furlough and support for schools."

On meeting with the government, a joint statement was issued by the directors of public health representing Burnley Borough Council, Bedford Borough Council, Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, Bolton Metropolitan Borough Council, Kirklees Council, Leicester City Council, London Borough of Hounslow and North Tyneside Council.

It read: "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 each of our areas: 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."

Prior to Friday's announcement, business leader Frank McKenna had already condemned the handling of rumoured lockdowns and called for more clarity on the matter.

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