'We should have been told four days ago'

‘We should have been told four days ago’ Furious residents in Britain’s eight Indian variant hotspots say they only found out about travel ban TODAY as they cancel trips to see friends and family at last minute

  • Locals in Bolton, Bedford, Leicester, Hounslow and North Tyneside said they are ‘fed up’ with latest changes
  • Government published updated travel guidance for eight Covid hotspots on Friday without an announcement 
  • Guidance asks for an ‘extra cautious approach’ and urges people to avoid travelling in and out of certain areas 

Furious locals in Britain’s eight Indian variant hotspots have claimed they only found out about the travel ban today as they lamented being forced to cancel long-awaited trips and family reunions at the last minute. 

Updated Covid guidance brought in without any warning has urged people not to visit Bolton, Blackburn with Darwen, Kirklees, Bedford, Burnley, Leicester, Hounslow and North Tyneside. 

It was published by Downing Street on Friday, and asked for ‘an extra cautious approach’ in areas that have been hit hardest by the Indian variant of Covid-19.    

Ministers were today hammered by MPs for imposing ‘local lockdowns by the back door’, with Labour branding the sudden shift ‘upsetting and insulting’.

Downing Street has argued that the recommendations to the hotspot areas were first issued on May 14 – when the PM urging people to be ‘extra cautious’ – before being ‘formally’ published online last week.

No10 today tried to cool the row by stressing that the guidance – which is still online – was ‘not statutory’ and that the Government wanted to move away from ‘top-down edicts’ as lockdown eases. 

However, at a press conference with other local leaders this afternoon, the Tory leader of Bolton Council David Greenhalgh said ministers had now clarified that there are no extra restrictions. 

Those who live in the eight Covid hotspots earlier insisted they should have been made aware of the apparent changes earlier, while some were outraged they would have to delay long-awaited family reunions even longer.

Pip Milburn, 38, from Wallsend, had been due to see her mother for the first time in 17 months and now cannot due to the changing travel guidance in North Tyneside


Chaz Marshall (left), 35, from the Hamilton area of Leicester, said: ‘It’s not a good idea to bring that in without telling us. It’s bad for trust which is low here anyway. Pictured right: Felix Loyola, from Hounslow, who said: ‘The new restrictions won’t change much, a virus is a virus. It’s everywhere, it’s in the air and what you touch’

Updated Covid guidance brought in without any warning has urged people not to visit Bolton, Blackburn with Darwen, Kirklees, Bedford, Burnley, Leicester, Hounslow and North Tyneside. Pictured: Hounslow High Street today

The number of people in hospital with Covid (shown in blue) has traditionally spiked shortly after cases rise (orange), which appears to be happening again this spring but to a lesser degree thanks to the rollout of the vaccines. The data for the first wave is out of sync because the UK was not routinely testing people for the virus which meant the majority of cases were missed

MailOnline’s analysis of the Government’s Covid dashboard data suggests Bolton’s Indian coronavirus variant outbreak may have already peaked (shown as the flat blue line). The rolling seven-day average number of infections was about 177 on May 16, the most recent date for which data is available, down slightly on the 178 the previous day. While Bolton is still suffering the highest proportion of cases of anywhere in the country because of the Indian variant, the fact the virus is no longer growing rapidly suggests the town’s outbreak may have already peaked

Pip Milburn, 38, from Wallsend, had been due to see her mother for the first time in 17 months but under the newly published guidance would have been unable to make the trip.    

She said: ‘I’m completely fed up with the whole thing. We were saying before where has it come from?

‘I don’t know how the Government have let people travel to India for whatever reason and come back and not isolate as they’re supposed to. 

‘I was planning on going to visit my mum who lives in Staffordshire next week, who I haven’t seen since Christmas 2019. I was really looking forward to seeing her but now I’m not going to be able to and will have to wait until the next half term.

‘I’m not losing any money but it’s just disappointing, my daughter is six and she hasn’t seen her grandmother for nearly a year and a half.’

Mick Thompson, 58, from Whitley Bay, said: ‘I think fed up is the best way to put it, I think I’m the same as everyone else. I’m not confused but fed up. I think we are all through it and this is just the reaction to a few cases of the variant.


Hazel Moore (left), 74, was out doing some shopping in North Tyneside with her friend Emma Laidler (right), 84, today and the pair are both fed up with the restrictions

The latest restrictions may also affect Chris Beavers, whose 8-year-old son lives in County Durham. The 34-year-old wholesale worker from North Shields said: ‘To be honest I’m almost switched off to it now with it being going on for a year’


Hotel worker and mother-of-one Lisa Jesse (left), 26, said: ‘I have heard a lot of people have died instantly from the Indian variant, but you have to live your day to day life. If you need to get something, you have to go’. Pictured right: Munish Jaidka, who believed that the new restrictions were a good thing until the risk was at a minimum

The guidance was published by Downing Street on Friday, and asks for ‘an extra cautious approach’ in areas that have been hit hardest by the Indian variant of Covid-19. Pictured: Hounslow High Street

Cabinet Office guidance which appears to have been released on May 21 without any fanfare says people should avoid travelling into or out of the eight local authorities where cases of the Indian variant are highest

‘I’ve had my two jabs and I’ve started having a couple of pints so I’m a bit happier but this is rubbish. The rise in cases has been happening for about two weeks so what’s the point in telling us now, that horse has bolted.

‘I’m going away next week just with my wife in the caravan just for a few days. I’m going to get a test for some peace of mind. I think generally people are going to be wary now of coming out.’

Stay-at-home mother Charlie Gallagher, 34, added: ‘I didn’t realise until last night about this newest announcement when my friend from Manchester, who’s supposed to be coming up this weekend, asked me what it was.

‘I said it was advised and that it’s not legal but I’ve heard they might make it legal so it’s a bit confusing.

‘My friend is heavily pregnant and said she probably won’t come up now because of the risks. It’s a bit deflating.’  

Hazel Moore, 74, was out doing some shopping in North Tyneside with her friend Emma Laidler, 84, today and the pair are both fed up.

Retired shop worker Ms Moore said: ‘I’m definitely fed up. I wish the Government would make their mind up. I think they’re just leaving it for everybody else to decide now.

Data shows how big Covid outbreaks are in the eight areas with the travel guidance. The figures show how the rolling seven-day infection rate (the number of cases spotted in a week for every 100,000 people) has changed since the start of the year, with it spiking in Bolton (top right) to above levels seen during the second wave in January. Cases appear much flatter in other areas, including Leicester and Hounslow

People sit outside a bustling coffee shop amid the spread of  Covid in Bedford town centre today

People walk at The Arcade shopping mall in Bedford, Bedfordshire today following outrage over the new restrictions


Mick Thompson (left), 58, from Whitley Bay, said: ‘I think fed up is the best way to put it, I think I’m the same as everyone else. I’m not confused but fed up. I think we are all through it and this is just the reaction to a few cases of the variant’.  Stay-at-home mother Charlie Gallagher (right), 34, added: ‘I didn’t realise until last night about this newest announcement when my friend from Manchester, who’s supposed to be coming up this weekend, asked me what it was’

‘I’m not confused but just sick of it and now we have to deal with this. We can’t be any safer than we already are. The pandemic has been hard going.

‘We’re just staying in North Tyneside until they decide when we can leave but I think the whole red, amber and green system is crazy. They should have had a green and a red and be done with it.’

Meanwhile Ms Laidler, also a retired shop worker, said: ‘I think they are just making it up as they go along with it. I’m not confused either but I’m just sick of it and we are also sick of wearing masks.

‘I’ve got a granddaughter coming up from Kent at the weekend so I don’t know whether she will be able to come.

‘I don’t know what she’s doing. I was looking forward to her coming up and it’s been over a year since I’ve seen her.

‘It’s my granddaughter and two great-granddaughters coming up who I haven’t seen for a long time.’

Locals in Bedford were also frustrated with the sudden changes, after Britons were advised to avoid travelling into or out of the eight local authorities where cases of the Indian variant are highest.


Joey Bannister (left), 17, an art student at a local sixth form college in Bolton, said: ‘I heard about the travel ban this morning from a friend. We should have been told sooner because people have been doing in and out of Bolton all weekend’. Holly Boardman (right) said: ‘We heard about the travel restrictions on the radio this morning, so four days after the Government brought them in’

Local councils left reeling by the change today blasted ministers for failing to consult or even inform them about the update, which appears to have been made on Friday but was only spotted yesterday. Pictured: Hounslow High Street

The updated guidance comes as Boris Johnson and his ministers continue to weigh up the latest evidence on the variant as they decide whether ‘freedom day’ on June 21 – the last step in the PM’s roadmap – will be able to go ahead as planned

Clive Dodds, 45, from Bedford, said: ‘The impact is going to be huge for the businesses. The worry is the communication side of it. It should have been made clear earlier.

‘We have all got a responsibility to other people around us in Bedford. ‘

Mr Dodds, a senior programme manager for Network Rail, added: ‘There are a lot of people in the town who play by the rules, but there are a lot of people who don’t necessarily abide by the rules.’      

Linda Taylor, 70, insisted the updated guidance is ‘very confusing’ for those in the area.  

Fil Wain, 47, added: ‘The other problem is Bedfordshire is quite a big area. If you lockdown Bedford Borough how does that work with other areas being so close? 

‘I am a hairdresser with my salon in Central Beds. I have got to keep an eye on people coming in from Bedford Borough. No one has said how to deal with that. 

‘Do I have to say you can’t come because you come from Bedford Borough?’ 

The guidance was particularly concerning for local business owners, who already reported business being ‘very, very slow’ in the market town, which recorded 50 new Covid cases on Monday. 


Pictured left: Trish Farrington, with granddaughters Scarlett and Annabella, in Bolton and right: Ivaylo Todorov in Hounslow

Ministers ‘sneaked out’ the advice without any announcement. Local leaders have reacted furiously to the changes, and said they are surprised no one in Whitehall even had the courtesy to let them know about the change


The number of hotspots for the Indian variant, where it accounts for more than 50 per cent of infections, has doubled in just seven days from 23 to 44 local authorities. Separate figures show it is already dominant in the UK

Aamir Ayoub, 35, who runs a vegetable stall on the High Street, said: ‘The local MP spoke to people on Facebook in our language (Urdu) last night telling people to get their vaccination sorted.

‘People are not bothering with social distancing. That is people from all the communities. Some old people do but others don’t bother.’  

Those in Leicester said the back-and-forth was ‘bad for trust’, while several people said they had ‘no idea’ the divisive guidance had even been published.

Chaz Marshall, 35, from the Hamilton area of Leicester, said: ‘It’s not a good idea to bring that in without telling us. It’s bad for trust which is low here anyway.

WHAT DOES THE GUIDANCE NOT TO VISIT INDIAN VARIANT HOTSPOTS SAY? 

Cabinet Office guidance says people should avoid travelling into and out of eight Indian variant hotspots in England.

The advice for Bolton was issued on May 14, with the other seven added in the lead up to May 21, The Guardian reports.

It reads: The new Covid variant spreads more easily from person to person. To help stop the spread, you should take particular caution when meeting anyone outside your household or support bubble.

In the areas listed, wherever possible, you should try to:

  • Meet outside rather than inside where possible;
  • 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 that you don’t live with;
  • Avoid travelling in and out of affected areas unless it is essential, for example for work (if you cannot work from home) or education.

You should also:

  • Get tested twice a week for free and isolate if you are positive;
  • Continue to work from home if you can;
  • Get vaccinated when you are offered it, and encourage others to do so as well. 

You should get tested for Covid. This includes:

  • Arranging to have a PCR test if you have symptoms of Covid;
  • Participating in surge testing in your local area;
  • Getting regular rapid tests if you do not have symptoms of coronavirus. 

You should self-isolate immediately if you have symptoms or a positive test result for Covid. There is financial support if you’re off work because of coronavirus.

Source: Cabinet Office

‘People are so fed up with rules and restrictions here it’s a kick in the teeth as we were tasting freedom.’  

Grandfather-of-five Golden Ngwenga, 62, a care worker from Leicester, added: ‘Lockdown has affected us a lot in Leicester, both youngsters’ education and adults’ jobs.

‘So many people have been made redundant, it’s very disappointing to think this advice will probably eventually become law and hurt the economy here again.

‘It’s very confusing after some restrictions were lifted. People won’t know if they’re coming or going.’ 

Mother-of-two Jackie Smith, 54, from the Stoughton area of Leicester, said: ‘I didn’t know until I’d already come into Leicester today for some shopping and to bring my daughter in to give blood.

‘I’d no idea we weren’t meant to be travelling in and out.

‘We should’ve had more notice, but some people will just carry on regardless and go in people’s houses like they did before it was allowed.’   

Cabinet Office guidance which appears to have been released on May 21 without any fanfare says people should avoid travelling into or out of the eight local authorities where cases of the Indian variant are highest. 

It reads: ‘The new Covid variant spreads more easily from person to person. To help stop the spread, you should take particular caution when meeting anyone outside your household or support bubble.

‘In the areas listed, wherever possible, you should try to meet outside rather than inside where possible, 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 that you don’t live with, and avoid travelling in and out of affected areas unless it is essential, for example for work (if you cannot work from home) or education.’

It adds residents should also test themselves for the virus twice a week, work from home if possible and get vaccinated. 

The public health directors for Leicester and Tyneside later said they had been told there are ‘no restrictions on travel in or out of each of our areas and it was a mistake to suggest there was’. 

Those who live in Bolton, Greater Manchester, also insisted they should have been told about any changes sooner, as people have been travelling in and out of the area all weekend.  

But there was good news for the town today as the latest data from the Government’s Covid dashboard suggested the Indian coronavirus variant outbreak may have already peaked. 

MailOnline’s analysis of Department of Health figures show positive tests appear to have plateaued in the borough for the first time in a month, following a period of exponential growth fuelled by the mutant B.1.617.2 strain in April and early May. 

Figures show Bolton’s rolling seven-day average number of infections was about 177 on May 16, the most recent date for which data is available, down slightly on the 178 the previous day. Before that, infections had risen sharply every day since April 19, when there were just 17 positive tests each day, on average. 

Joey Bannister, 17, an art student at a local sixth form college, said: ‘I heard about the travel ban this morning from a friend. We should have been told sooner because people have been doing in and out of Bolton all weekend.

‘I shouldn’t have to be learning about these things second hand. I need to go into Manchester for my studies and how long am I not going to be allowed to do that?’       

Student Holly Boardman, 19, was shopping today with her mother Shelley, 51.

Ms Boardman said: ‘We heard about the travel restrictions on the radio this morning, so four days after the Government brought them in.

‘We have just driven in from Manchester, which we obviously shouldn’t really have done. But it is hardly our fault if we didn’t know. I had my first jab last week and I’m glad I had it.’

Her mother added: ‘This latest announcement is a bit out of the blue. It is going to be hard on the town of Bolton, going into a kind of lockdown again. You have got to feel sorry for all the businesses and what they are going through and have been through already.’ 

Nasreen Bibiana, 28, added: ‘Everyone is getting sick of this now and it always seems to be Bolton that has it hardest. What’s worse is that the Government didn’t even tell us properly and people have been travelling all over the weekend when we shouldn’t have been.’ 

In Hounslow, Felix Loyola, 34, said: ‘The new restrictions won’t change much, a virus is a virus. It’s everywhere, it’s in the air and what you touch.

‘They’ve made new restrictions but if we all do our part, wash our hands, wear a mask, keep our distance then we won’t have any problems.

‘It doesn’t matter what area it is or what people there are, it’s the virus. Other countries have their own ways of sorting out the problem but it’s still the same virus it doesn’t matter what you do. Y

‘You can change the distancing, you can change the wearing of masks to different areas but just be careful.’  

Hotel worker and mother-of-one Lisa Jesse, 26, said: ‘I have heard a lot of people have died instantly from the Indian variant, but you have to live your day to day life. If you need to get something, you have to go.

‘It’s been a year that we have locked ourselves inside, it’s been so boring. I’ve wanted to go on holiday, I’ve got a little baby who is nearly a year old and I want to take her places.

‘It’s been difficult, I’m scared to take her out particularly with the announcement of the new variant, it’s in the air but there is nothing she can do. It would be nice to take her to the park but it’s so busy.’

Retired charity worker Sheila Ashfield, 80, said: ‘I just go with the flow. I am worried about coming into Hounslow, it is so busy here today.

‘I’ve heard about the new variant, there are thing that individuals can do, keep yourself covered up and keep your distance. I only heard the new restrictions for Hounslow on the television today, they announced what they wanted to do but that’s about it.’

Local councils left reeling by the change today blasted ministers for failing to consult or even inform them about the update, which appears to have been made on Friday but was only spotted yesterday.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer accused ministers of ‘shameful’ behaviour for making the change without telling local people, and demanded they provide clarity ‘fast’.  

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi faced the wrath of the Commons this afternoon with Labour branding the shift ‘upsetting and insulting’

Boris Johnson is pictured jogging in Westminster Park this morning with his dog Dilyn, a Jack Russell cross

‘Local lockdowns are the wrong approach for both public health and local economies,’ he said. ‘Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said Health Secretary Matt Hancock must urgently explain why the Government is rolling out ‘local lockdowns by the backdoor and hadn’t even bothered to tell us’.  

Bolton MP Yasmin Qureshi said she was left ‘gobsmacked’ by the change. Blackburn MP Kate Hollern dubbed the extra guidance ‘lockdown-lite’, and newly elected West Yorkshire mayor Tracy Brabin called for Mr Hancock to explain the change to Parliament.

But Cabinet minister Therese Coffey defended the move, telling BBC Radio 4’s Today programme it was ‘sensible’ to issue extra guidance for Indian variant hotspots. The Work and Pensions Secretary said people living in these areas should consider ‘whether it really is essential’ for them to travel, and should limit activities where they risked either passing on or catching the variant.

The Indian variant has already spread to almost half the country, or 151 out of 315 council areas, and is thought to now be the dominant strain in the country having displaced the Kent variant. 

Estimates suggest it may be around 30 per cent more transmissible but vaccines still work against it.

The updated guidance comes as Boris Johnson and his ministers continue to weigh up the latest evidence on the variant as they decide whether ‘freedom day’ on June 21 – the last step in the PM’s roadmap – will be able to go ahead as planned. 

‘GOBSMACKED’ LOCAL LEADERS CONDEMN THE GOVERNMENT FOR ADVISING AGAINST TRAVEL TO COVID HOTSPOTS 

MPs and local health chiefs voiced shock today after the government advised against travel to Indian variant hotspots – but did not tell anyone about the change for four days.

Politicians said they were ‘gobsmacked’ that the guidance on gov.uk had been updated on Friday to say only ‘essential’ visits should be made to affected areas, without any formal announcement being made.

People are being urged not to move in or out of Bolton, Blackburn, Kirklees, Bedford, Burnley, Leicester, Hounslow and North Tyneside unless it is unavoidable – although there is no legal restriction.

A televised press briefing on Wednesday, which focused heavily on the Indian variant, did not reference any specific travel measures for the affected areas.

Labour MP Ruth Cadbury ridiculed the restrictions on Hounslow in London, pointing out that the Piccadilly line and the A4 both run through the borough to Heathrow Airport.

It comes as Britons are being warned they may be forced to isolate for 10 days if they come into contact with an infected person after June 21 even if they have been fully vaccinated.

The threat of having to quarantine will likely undermine plans to return to normality next month, even for those who have received two Covid jabs.

It could also mean a far slower return to the office for some, as a single infection could still spark a mass quarantine of staff, even if most have been vaccinated. Having a subsequent negative test would not be enough to bring about an end to the quarantine.

Government sources say it is crucial that the contract tracing system stay in place because it is still possible for vaccinated people to pass on coronavirus. One told The Telegraph: ‘There is still a risk of getting the virus and spreading it on.’

Dr Adam Kucharski, an epidemiologist and member of a SAGE advisory committee, today warned a ‘substantial amount of cases’ of the Indian variant could translate into hospitalisations — which would put some local health services under increased pressure. He added that the final lifting of lockdown restrictions was not ‘inevitable’ because of the rapid spread of the B.1.617.2 strain.

Meanwhile, people are being warned they may be forced to isolate for 10 days if they come into contact with an infected person after June 21 even if they have been fully vaccinated. 

When Tory MP Mark Harper asked Mr Zahawi if that was indeed the policy, the minister suggested that within his own family someone had received two doses of vaccine and still contracted the disease.

‘It’s worth waiting until June 14 when we will be saying more on this. Suffice to say two things,’ he said.

‘One, even if you’ve had – and I have had this experience in my own family – two doses of either vaccine you still can actually contract covid and therefore you should be isolating and quarantining.

‘We are also looking at ways that contacts of people who may have contracted Covid can be regularly tested instead of isolating.’ 

The threat of having to quarantine will likely undermine plans to return to normality next month, even for those who have received two Covid jabs.

It could also mean a far slower return to the office for some, as a single infection could still spark a mass quarantine of staff, even if most have been vaccinated. Having a subsequent negative test would not be enough to bring about an end to the quarantine.  

Government sources say it is crucial that the contact tracing system stay in place because it is still possible for vaccinated people to pass on coronavirus. One told The Telegraph: ‘There is still a risk of getting the virus and spreading it on.’  

Sir Keir, MPs and local councillors have blasted the updated local guidance, and called for clarity over the new restrictions affecting the Indian variant hotspots amid fears they could trigger ‘anxiety and confusion’.

The Labour leader said: ‘Making a major change that will impact so many people without even telling them is utterly shameful. The Government needs to provide clarity, fast. Local lockdowns are the wrong approach for both public health and local economies.

‘The Government is time and again failing to learn lessons. We need proper support to self-isolate, decent sick pay, a working test and trace system and the roll out of the vaccine as quickly as possible.’ 

Ms Qureshi, Labour MP for Bolton South East and shadow international development minister, said: ‘I was not informed of this and I understand nor was anyone else in Bolton.

‘I’m just gobsmacked. They’re making such an important announcement and they don’t even have the decency to tell us or tell our constituents.

‘The least I would expect is a letter or email from (Matt Hancock) or his office as a matter of courtesy.

‘Further and more importantly, my constituents needed to know. Many will have planned for the long weekend, bought tickets, made arrangements.

‘And it’s still not clear if this is advisory or legally obligatory. This is typical of this Government’s incompetence.’

The Tory MP for Bolton West and Atherton, Chris Green, said he did not find out about the change until 10pm yesterday. 

Department of Health data shows how the number of positive tests being recorded each day has changed in the 10 areas with the biggest outbreaks where the Indian variant is known to be dominant. Top left shows Bolton’s outbreak, which has grown rapidly over the past three weeks. But outbreaks remain flat in other hotspots, such as Preston, Hillingdon and Ealing

In Bolton, which is recording the highest Covid infection rate in the country due to an outbreak of the Indian variant, hospitalisations have already started to creep up. There are currently 43 Covid patients in Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, according to data from the Government’s Covid dashboard, which is more than triple than at the start of May, when there were 13

Gunners from the Royal Horse Artillery distribute Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests to local residents on May 24, 2021 in Bolton

Shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth slammed the confusing situation in exchanges with Mr Zahawi (pictured), and also condemned Matt Hancock for failing to have the ‘courtesy’ of coming to the House himself

Labour’s Ms Hollern tweeted: ‘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.

‘I strongly oppose the Government’s attempt to introduce new measures by stealth and without consultation.’

Ms Brabin and the leader of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus, the Lib Dem MP Layla Moran, have called for Mr Hancock to be hauled before Parliament to explain why the change was made, seemingly without any advice or guidance being sent to local authorities.

‘It’s another example of the Government doing to us without working with us,’ Ms Brabin told BBC Breakfast. ‘It’s caused a lot of confusion. We were only alerted to it by journalists last night, late last night.’

She added: ‘I’m expecting Matt Hancock to come to the Houses of Parliament to explain what’s actually going on. 

‘We know that during this pandemic our councils have worked absolutely tirelessly to deliver for our communities. But, if we have an issue here, we need Government to be working with us, not causing more chaos.’

Asked whether this signalled a return to the tier system, she said: ‘If it is, we would like to know. This is part of the problem. We don’t know hot to respond. We don’t know what to advice our citizens. One wonders whether we should be taking this seriously at all.’

Ms Moran said: ‘Simply updating the Government website without an official announcement is a recipe for confusion and uncertainty. 

‘Matt Hancock must come before Parliament and make a public statement to explain these new rules. ‘It seems crucial lessons have still not been learnt about the importance of clear messaging during a pandemic.’ 

Ministers have not ruled out local lockdowns for areas where Covid cases are highest, even after the June 21 ‘freedom day’ when all restrictions are set to be lifted.

Labour’s Ruth Cadbury, the MP for Brentford and Isleworth, slammed ministers for trying to halt travel through the borough of Hounslow, pointing out it has two direct links to Heathrow airport. 

‘Keep out of London Borough of Hounslow area?!,’ she said. ‘Does anyone in the Department of Health realise the Piccadilly line and A4 through the borough are the main routes between Heathrow and Central London?

‘Was there any plan to actually discuss this with the council (or even perhaps look at a map)?’ 

Piling yet more pressure on the Government, North Tyneside’s director of public health Wendy Burke said there had been no indication of any additional restrictions when surge testing was launched last week. 

‘We understand that, later, Government guidance around travel in and out of North Tyneside was posted on the Government website,’ she said.

‘This has not been accompanied by any communication to the local authority, local residents or businesses.

‘We have already queried this with the Department of Health and Social Care to seek clarification.’  

Ms Coffey said she was ‘surprised’ to hear that MPs in areas impacted by new guidance around the Indian variant did not feel properly informed.

‘The Prime Minister set out that we need to take extra caution in certain areas regarding the Indian variant,’ she told Sky News. ‘It is good practice to formally put that guidance on the record affecting those communities.

‘We have been working in close contact, so I’m surprised to hear that people think this has come out of the blue – it hasn’t.

‘It is about formalising on the record the guidance which we believe people can and should follow in order to make sure we tackle and don’t have more spread of the Indian variant.’

A Government spokesman said: ‘Working with local authorities, we took swift and decisive action to slow the spread of the B1.617.2 (India) variant by introducing surge testing and bringing forward second doses of the vaccine for the most vulnerable.

‘We provided additional guidance for those living in affected areas when we became aware of the risk posed by the variant, to encourage people to take an extra cautious approach when meeting others or travelling.’ 

Where is the Indian variant dominant? And are cases going up? 

AUTHORITY

Bolton

Blackburn w D

Sefton

West Lancashire

Stevenage

Nottingham

South Northants

Bedford

Chelmsford

Hillingdon

Camden

Hounslow

Greenwich

Croydon

Bromley

Dartford

Sevenoaks

Canterbury

Rushmoor

Hart

Ribble Valley

Preston

Fylde

Burnley

Rossendale

Chorley

Central Beds

East Northants

North Herts

East Herts

West Oxfordshire

Bristol

Wiltshire

Test Valley

Swindon

Reading

Woking

Havering

Barking & Dag

Barnet

Ealing

Slough

S Oxfordshire

Wigan

INFECTION RATE

434.0 

215.1 

22.4 

9.6 

10.2 

22.8

16.9 

142.5 

5.6 

39.1 

8.5 

47.5 

26.0 

29.5 

19.6 

8.0 

9.9 

34.5 

22.2 

21.6 

21.4 

49.8 

9.9 

60.7 

57.4 

55.8 

35.0 

15.9 

6.7 

6.7 

15.4 

14.5 

6.2 

7.9 

19.4 

33.4 

16.9 

6.9 

11.3 

9.9 

35.7 

25.4 

4.2 

34.1 

WEEK GROWTH

up 72.6% 

up 87.2% 

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Bolton in Greater Manchester recorded 451 cases per 100,000 people in the week to May 20, the highest in England.

The number of people in hospital with coronavirus in Bolton has more than tripled in a fortnight as the Manchester borough grapples with an outbreak of the highly-infectious Indian variant.

Sources say there are currently 43 Covid patients in the town’s NHS trust, compared to 12 that were receiving care on May 10.

Experts fear the pressure on the trust, which looks after the Royal Bolton Hospital, will only get worse as the infection rate climbs. 

Bolton is recording more than 400 Covid cases per 100,000 people –  twenty times the national average – following a period of exponential growth of the Indian variant in the last month. It takes several weeks for cases to turn into hospitalisations due to the lag between someone catching and falling seriously ill with Covid.

It was suggested today that the outbreak of the Indian variant in Bolton may already have peaked. 

However, Number 10 has said the ‘majority’ of people being hospitalised with the disease currently are either unvaccinated or have not been for both jabs.

Analysis by Public Health England has found two doses of AstraZeneca or Pfizer’s jab provide a similar level of protection from the Indian variant as they do for the Kent version, which has raised hopes that hospital and death rates will not reach the peaks of previous waves.  

Meanwhile, data published yesterday showed the Indian variant spiralling in Bolton is now dominant in nearly 15 per cent of authorities in England – almost twice as many as the previous week.

Analysis of samples from people infected with Covid in the week up to May 15 also shows that the B.1.617.2 strain had spread to 151 out of England’s 314 local authorities.

The mutant virus had overtaken the previously-dominant Kent variant in 44 places, up from 23 the week prior.

It is now behind behind 90 per cent of Covid infections in Blackburn and eight in ten in the hotspots of Bolton, Sefton, Bedford and Croydon.

The places where the Indian strain overtook the Kent variant in the most recent week were: Ribble Valley, Preston, Fylde, Burnley, Rossendale, Chorley, Central Bedfordshire, East Northamptonshire, North Hertfordshire, East Hertfordshire, West Oxfordshire, South Oxfordshire, Bristol, Swindon, Wiltshire, Test Valley, Reading, Woking, Slough, Havering, Barking and Dagenham, Barnet, Ealing.

It is still dominant in: Bolton, Blackburn with Darwen, Sefton, West Lancashire, Stevenage, Nottingham, South Northamptonshire, Bedford, Chelmsford, Dartford, Sevenoaks, Canterbury, Rushmoor, Hart, Hillingdon, Camden, Hounslow, Greenwich, Croydon and Bromley. 

But it is no longer the dominant strain in Oadby and Wigston, Broxbourne and Brent which may be down to very low case numbers in these areas. 

Bolton has the highest infection rate out of local authorities suffering outbreaks of the Indian variant (434 cases per 100,000 people) which has more than doubled over the past week. 

Data suggests that two per cent of people in one neighbourhood of the borough tested positive for the virus last week.

Blackburn with Darwen had the second largest outbreak (215.1), and Bedford had the third largest (142.5).

They were followed by new hotspots Burnley (60.7), Rossendale (57.4), Chorley (55.8) and Preston (48.9).

Indian variant hotspot Hounslow had the highest Covid infection rate in London (47.5). It was followed by Hillingdon (39.1) and Ealing (35.7).  

For comparison, England’s average is 21.3 per 100,000 and has remained around this level since mid-April. 

PHE’s latest breakdown shows 46.2 per cent of Covid cases were the Kent variant in the week to May 10, but 53.8 per cent were down to other variants. It is thought the first majority were B.1.617.2.

Professor Paul Hunter, an expert in infectious diseases at the University of East Anglia, told MailOnline that the Indian strain was likely already the dominant strain of the virus across the UK because the Sanger data is weeks out of date.

He noted that the variant is spreading in areas that were hardest hit at earlier stages of the pandemic, suggesting that social and other mixing factors were contributing to the outbreaks, rather than purely the infectiousness of the strain.

‘Covid is retreating to its strongholds of last summer, looking at the latest map which is already out of data,’ he said.

Data from Public Health England shows the prevalence of variants across all the regions of England, with the Indian variant (light purple) compared to the Kent variant (white/pink). Data shows B.1.617.2 is now dominant in the North West, making up around 70 per cent of all sequenced cases. The proportion of samples analysed in a lab is shown by the black line. The sharp drop off is down to the lag in getting samples analysed and not because of a huge reduction in swabs being checked

Data also shows how quickly the different variants have grown in England, with the Indian variant (green) spreading rapidly. The South African variant is coloured blue

National data also shows how quickly the Indian variant (purple) has spread, making up around half of all new cases reported across the country. The Kent variant is shaded pink. The proportion of cases being sequenced is shown by the black line

PHE analysis also revealed how the Indian variant is spreading quickly in the community (top graph, Indian variant is purple). The middle graph shows the proportion of cases made up by travellers. The bottom graph shows the amount of cases that were sequenced in different weeks. It can take several weeks for samples to be thoroughly analysed, meaning there is a lag in the data 

Separate figures also show the number of suspected reinfections over time, which are broken down into different types of the coronavirus. The purple area highlights reinfections seen in people who have caught the Indian variant

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