North Tyneside MP hits out at Government over Covid travel 'panic'
The Government has been accused of causing “unnecessary panic” over new guidance telling people not to travel in and out of North Tyneside.
It emerged on Monday night that the borough was one of eight council areas in England which should be avoided “unless it is essential” due to outbreaks of the fast-spreading Indian strain of Covid-19.
But local officials were left stunned by the guidance, which it appears was published online last Friday night without any official announcement being made.
North Tyneside MP Mary Glindon said that she, public health officials, and council bosses were “completely in the dark”.
The Labour MP said: “Since we were told about the variant, the council has been working to get the test sites set up, they are working with GPs to try and get people who have not yet been vaccinated to come forward.
"They are doing everything they possibly can and now they get this dropped on them without any warning.
“The Government seems to have no coordination on Covid at times.
“North Tyneside is always on the ball and doing what we need to do, but we need to be kept up to speed.
“This is very disappointing. It causes unnecessary panic and concern when people do not have the facts.”
Mrs Glindon added that the Government had been “negligent towards the local authorities” by not informing them.
North Tyneside public health director Wendy Burke said that surge testing in North Tyneside over the weekend has shown a Covid case rate of around 55 per 100,000 people over seven days and that there were also “around 40 confirmed cases of the Indian variant in the borough”.
Mrs Glindon added: “The approach from North Tyneside has been to deal with the variant in a calm way and not to create panic. They are getting people to come forward for tests and to have a vaccine, to do everything properly.
“It is disappointing that the Government has not played the game all the way down the line. We need to see what comes back today and implement whatever has to be done, or whether the Government has been hasty in this.
“Because of the way they have done it and because there is no explanation given yet, I am not sure if this is a panicked reaction from the Government. It seems strange.
“Where has this come from? We need the facts. We don’t want to cause panic, we want the facts.”
On Tuesday morning, Ms Burke confirmed that North Tyneside Council had “queried” the guidance with Government and that it “has not been accompanied by any communication to the Local Authority, local residents or businesses”.
A Government spokesperson said: “Working with local authorities, we took swift and decisive action to slow the spread of the B1.617.2 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.”
The advice on gov.uk states people should try to “avoid travelling in and out of affected areas unless it is essential, for example for work (if you cannot work from home) or education”.