THE Government faced open mutiny last night as it was accused of sneakily introducing local lockdowns.
Chaos erupted after guidance emerged online telling Brits not to visit eight Indian variant Covid hotspots, including Bolton, Leicester and Hounslow.
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But local authority chiefs insisted it had been a mistake and “nothing has changed”.
The muddle came as Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock braced for “Domageddon” today as rogue ex-aide Dominic Cummings spills Covid policy secrets to MPs.
Council leaders told people in the affected areas — Bedford, Blackburn, Bolton, Burnley, Kirklees, Leicester, Hounslow and North Tyneside — to carry on as normal.
The Government advice, quietly dumped online on Friday night but not spotted until late on Monday, told people to “avoid travelling in and out of affected areas unless it is essential”.
It also told locals to meet outside where possible and to stick to the two-metre social distancing rule.
Ministers last night insisted no local lockdowns were in place and rushed out updated guidance which advises Brits to minimise travel for those areas.
A Government spokesperson said: “We will be updating the guidance for areas where the new Covid-19 variant is spreading to make it clearer we are not imposing local restrictions.
“Instead, we are providing advice on the additional precautions people can take to protect themselves and others in those areas where the new variant is prevalent.”
Local politicians had raged they were blindsided by the advice blunder.
They accused the Prime Minister of sparking fears that he was about to plunge the nation back into hated local restrictions.
'ANGER AND UNREST'
Red Wall Tory MP Jake Berry, whose Lancashire constituency is in a Covid hotspot, lashed No10 over the move.
Accusing Downing Street of imposing a local lockdown, he said: “If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, more often than not it is a duck.”
Council leaders, mayors and health chiefs furiously accused the Government of not bothering to tell them about the change in policy.
Tory and Labour politicians united in warning that their communities “will not accept local lockdown”.
The Tory Bolton council leader, David Greenhalgh, warned there would be “anger” and unrest on the streets if the North was shunted back into hated restrictions.
He said the area had been plunged into “confusion” but said after a series of crisis talks with the Government that he was reassured “there is no local lockdown”.
He said families “shouldn’t be cancelling their holidays” if they have arranged them.
Labour’s so-called King of the North Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, said: “There will be concern this is a local lockdown by stealth….or the introduction of the tiers system.
“We do not wish to see any return to local lockdown.”
The Sun says
IT has shot itself in the foot a few times over the past year. But the Government’s new fiasco over the “advice” to Indian variant hotspots is a bewildering blunder.
It may not be wrong to issue new edicts in, say, Bolton, where cases are soaring. Especially with hospitalisations there rising too, mainly among the unjabbed.
But, regardless of whether it’s justified, why merely update a website and keep schtum? And why such mixed messages?
No wonder locals are confused and their councils and MPs in open revolt.
Meanwhile, former No10 adviser Mr Cummings — summoned to a bombshell Commons evidence session — has vowed to lift the lid on how the PM was too slow to lock down last March and the Health Secretary’s “disastrous” pandemic planning.
Last night it was claimed he would make incendiary claims that Mr Johnson refused to order a second lockdown in September because “only 80-year-olds were dying” from the bug.
The scorned ex-ally will point the finger directly at his former boss and said on Twitter that thousands of lives were needlessly lost by his “awful decisions”.
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