Nick Ferrari challenges minister as Covid guidance changes without announcement

25 May 2021, 09:24 | Updated: 25 May 2021, 09:25

By Fiona Jones

Nick Ferrari challenged work and pensions secretary Thérèse Coffey over the clarity of the Government's Covid guidance, which she insisted was "really clear."

It comes after the Government has faced criticism for issuing new official coronavirus advice in eight parts of England without making an official announcement.

The guidance changed on Friday in areas where the India variant of Covid-19 is spreading fastest, including Bolton, Leicester, Kirklees and the London borough of Hounslow.

The shift in their local measures mean people should avoid travelling in and out of the eight areas, with Bedford, Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley and North Tyneside also on the list. People in the eight areas should also be tested twice a week, according to the Government advice.

Nick pushed Ms Coffey to answer why the guidance was not announced, to which she responded: "I think guidance was announced about how people could be more cautious, this is simply about formalising the guidance."

Nick questioned, "This change took place on Friday but was not announced - how are people meant to discover this, by telepathy?"

Ms Coffey said, "I think the Prime Minister did say in areas particularly affected by the Indian variant where we've seen an increase in the number of infections, that people did need to take extra care during step three, and the guidance simply formalises that.

"We've been in constant contact with councils, local communities, this is about formalising the guidance on the website but the message has been very clear."

The work and pensions secretary told LBC that in the areas with a significant increase in transmissions "people do need to take extra caution and be really careful about some if the travel and interactions that they have."

Conversely, Professor Dominic Harrison, director of public health for Blackburn with Darwen, said he had not been made aware of the updated guidance advising against all but essential travel in the area.

He tweeted: "#localgov areas involved were not consulted with, warned of, notified about, or alerted to this guidance. I have asked to see the national risk assessment which supports this action - it has not been provided to us yet."

Layla Moran, chairwoman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus, said updating the guidance without a proper announcement "is a recipe for confusion and uncertainty".

"Local people and public health leaders in these areas need urgent clarity from the Government. Matt Hancock must come before Parliament and make a public statement to explain these new rules," she said.