Image above: Wellcome Sanger Institute Covid-19 Genomic Surveillance map showing Genomes per week
THERE HAS BEEN A DEVELOPMENT IN THIS STORY. THE INFORMATION ON THE GOVERNMENT WEBSITE WAS WRONG. FOR AN UPDATE GO HERE:
The Government has issued guidance to people not to travel to LB Hounslow – or to travel out of it – ‘unless it is essential’ because of the presence of the Indian variant of Covid.
LB Hounslow is listed as one of eight areas where the virus is spreading fastest. They are Bolton, Blackburn, Kirklees, Bedford, Burnley, Leicester, Hounslow and North Tyneside.
Data published by the Wellcome Sanger Institute shows Hounslow as having 20 Genomes per week of the Indian variant in the two weeks up to 15 May.
People living in these affected areas are also asked not to meet indoors.
The Government has updated its advice about Covid on the Government website to say this:
‘If you’re in an area where the new COVID-19 variant is spreading
‘The new COVID-19 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 above, wherever possible, you should try to:
- meet outside rather than inside where possible
- keep 2 metres apart from people that you don’t live with (unless you have formed a support bubble with them), this includes friends and family 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
LB Hounslow not told by the Government
We spoke to LB Hounslow Leader Steve Curran to ask if the council had had any warning. “Absolutely not” he said. They just found out from the Government website, the same as everybody else.
Ruith Cadbury, MP for Brentford & Isleworth, told us:
“You can’t lock down a London borough in isolation, let alone one that is on the busy transport route between Heathrow and Central London. It might have been better to address the causes of the spread of the new variant, and properly support people to self-isolate by covering their lost income – too many people in the borough cannot afford to take days let alone two weeks off work”.
They are both now seeking clarification. Does the Government really mean we shouldn’t move in and out of the borough or does ‘affected areas’ really just mean small localised areas such as Cranford and West Hounslow where, in collaboration with Public Health England, the Council is carrying out surge testing.
Hounslow’s Director of Public Health Kelly O’Neill told The Chiswick Calendar last week:
“Because there is a lag in identifying cases due to the genotyping step, the data we have is out of date in terms of numbers, so there will be more variant cases circulating than we are aware of”.
This makes it hard to identify where exactly the ‘affected areas’ are.
The advice on the Government website continues:
‘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
‘Restrictions have been eased following the move to step 3. However we must continue to exercise caution. You should follow this guidance on what you can and cannot do. It is underpinned by law’.
The BBC reports:
‘The guidance appears to have been updated on Friday, without any government announcement, to include the eight affected areas.
Image above: Layla Moran MP
Guidance risks causing “confusion and uncertainty” says chair of All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus
The BBC quotes Layla Moran, the Liberal Democrat MP who chairs the all-party parliamentary group on coronavirus, saying this risked causing “confusion and uncertainty”.
‘She said: “This is a major change to policy that will have a huge impact on people’s lives. Simply updating the government website without an official 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.
“It seems crucial lessons have still not been learnt about the importance of clear messaging during a pandemic.”
The Chiswick Calendar has asked LB Hounslow what they have heard about a travel ban on people coming into Hounslow and leaving it.
Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar
See also: Indian variant in Hounslow and Ealing
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