Downing Street has admitted that communications on local guidance for coronavirus hotspots caused “confusion”.
The admission comes after the Government said on Tuesday it would be updating guidance to make it clear that lockdown measures are not being imposed for eight areas considered to be hotspots for the Indian variant of Covid-19 in England.
The Department of Health and Social Care said it would instead be issuing advice to people living in Burnley, Bedford, Blackburn with Darwen, Bolton, Kirklees, Leicester, Hounslow and North Tyneside after ministers were accused of bringing in rules on socialising and travelling “by stealth”.
The advice, which the Government said is not new regulations, aims to highlight “additional precautions” residents can take, such as meeting others outdoors rather than indoors, staying two metres apart from people not in the same household, and minimising travel in and out of the area.
It followed a day of confusion over the measures which appeared on the Government website on Friday, but without an official announcement and local leaders being made aware of any change.
On Wednesday, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We’ve updated the guidance online to make it clearer that these are not local restrictions and we do acknowledge the confusion this caused yesterday.”
Earlier, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps admitted the communications around the local guidance “could have been clearer”.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It’s important to say there are no new local lockdowns, no change in the law – the law is the same throughout England with regards to coronavirus.
“But I think it would also be churlish not to say that the communications could have been clearer and this was in essence simply guidance or advice just to remind people living in areas where the level happens to be quite a lot higher than the national average of the sensible things to do.”
Meanwhile, people in England aged 30 and over can book their Covid-19 jab from Wednesday.
About one million people aged 30 and 31 will get a text message in coming days asking them to come forward for their vaccine.
Health officials have sped up the timetable to offer second jabs in a bid to ensure that those at highest risk are protected from the variant of the virus first identified in India.
Vaccination experts have previously advised that people under the age of 40 should receive an alternative vaccine to the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab due to the link between the jab and extremely rare cases of blood clots.
This means that most under-40s will be offered the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.
NHS leaders in Scotland are encouraging people aged 30 and over to come forward for their jab and in Northern Ireland, those aged 25 and over are eligible for the vaccine.
In Wales the invite is open to all people over the age of 18.