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The Guardian view on ‘rules’ for Covid hotspots: another fine mess

The government’s shambolic presentation of new guidelines for certain areas undermines the fight to control the B.1.617.2 variant

During the first phase of the Covid pandemic, councils were driven to despair by the government’s failure to consult with them adequately or utilise local public health expertise. Last May, for example, as infection rates spiralled in the north-east, numerous northern councils defied Whitehall’s decree that all primary school reception classes should reopen. A dysfunctional relationship between Whitehall and local government undermined the national response to the crisis.

One year on, as concerns continue to grow over the B.1.617.2 variant of the virus, first detected in India, it is astonishing to see the same mistake being made all over again. On Monday night it emerged that new government guidance was issued last week for eight areas affected by the new variant, where surge testing and vaccinations have been taking place. The fresh advice, which would have major implications for millions of people, recommended that all non-essential travel in and out of the places concerned should be avoided, and people should meet outside rather than inside. But this major policy shift, which appeared to amount to a form of light local lockdown, was not communicated to local public health directors, council leaders or businesses. It simply appeared, unannounced, on the government’s Covid guidance website. The public health director of North Tyneside had spent the early part of this week reassuring regional media that it was “certainly OK” to visit the area. In Leicester, also on the list, 8,000 people attended a Premier League football match on Saturday. Yasmin Qureshi, the MP for Bolton South East, found out about the guidance from a local journalist.

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Read the original article at The Guardian

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