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Labour Accuses Government Of Sneaking In "Local Lockdowns By Stealth"

Writing for Politics Home, Eleanor Langford reports that Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth told the Commons that new regional guidance in coronavirus hotspots was “local lockdowns by stealth”, adding that it was “insulting” that the changes were kept quiet.

Ashworth, whose Leicester South constituency includes one of the affected areas, demanded newly published guidance be withdrawn and that the health secretary meet with local leaders to establish a new approach.

It comes amid the backlash against new coronavirus guidance released quietly on Friday night, which tightened current rules in eight local areas where the B.1.617.2 variant is most prevalent. Several local health directors and MPs have said they were not made aware of the change, which is believed to have come into force 11 days ago.

People in these areas are advised to only meet outside where possible, keep two metres apart from people not in their bubble, and avoid travelling in and out of affected areas unless for essential purposes.

Addressing the issue in an urgent question on Monday, Ashworth said many of the areas impacted by the new changes had “often been in lockdown longer than elsewhere” and “felt abandoned” by the government over lack of support.

“Can the minister understand how upsetting it is? Can he understand how insulting it is to have new restrictions imposed upon us — local lockdowns by stealth, by the backdoor — and the secretary of state doesn’t even have the courtesy to come and tell us?" he continued. “Why was this guidance plonked on a website on Friday night and not communicated to everyone? Why were local directors of public health and local authority leaders not consulted? Why weren’t MPs informed? And what does it now mean for our constituents?” Speaking opposite vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi, who was sent to answer the question rather than Hancock, Ashworth asked if the government could clarify whether families needed to cancel plans for the school half term, or whether students would be allowed to return home once their exams finish. He added: “Can he take a message from me, as the MP for Leicester South, back to the secretary of state? Withdraw this guidance now.”