THE Government is advising people to avoid all non-essential travel in and out of North Tyneside due to the spread of the Indian Covid variant.

The borough is one of eight council areas in England that should be avoided “unless it is essential”, according to guidance on the Government’s website.

The stricter advice appears to have been published online on Friday without an official announcement being made – and it contradicts comments made by North Tyneside’s public health director on Monday afternoon.

Read more: The numbers that led to the Government advising against going to North Tyneside

The Local Democracy Reporting Service understands there was no communication between central government and North Tyneside Council before the advice to avoid the borough was published.

The Northern Echo:

Wendy Burke, North Tyneside Director Of Public Health, had previously said it was “certainly okay to visit the area” as long as people exercised caution and followed public safety measures such as hand washing.

But the advice on states that 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”.

The guidance applies to North Tyneside, Bedford, Blackburn and Darwen, Bolton, Burnley, Kirklees, Leicester, and Hounslow – all areas that have seen outbreaks of the fast-spreading strain.

It states: “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, wherever possible, you should try to meet outside rather than inside where possible, keep two 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, [and] avoid travelling in and out of affected areas unless it is essential, for example for work (if you cannot work from home) or education.”

It also advises people in the eight areas to get tested for Covid twice a week, continue to work from home if possible, and get vaccinated when offered the jab.

Ms 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 which is “well over 100 cases in a week”.

She added that there were also “around 40 confirmed cases of the Indian variant in the borough”.

Currently, Bolton has the highest rolling seven-day infection rate in the country at 450.7 cases per 100,000 residents.

North Tyneside Council and the Department of Heath and Social Care were both contacted for a comment.

Last night, the Government was accused of “incompetence” after advising against all but essential travel in those eight areas of England where the Covid variant first identified in India is spreading fastest.

The change to the guidance – which is not law – appears to have been made on Friday without an official announcement, prompting criticism from MPs.

Yasmin Qureshi, Labour MP for Bolton South East and shadow international development minister, said: “I was not informed of this and I understand nor was anyone else in Bolton.

“I’m just gobsmacked. They’re making such an important announcement and they don’t even have the decency to tell us or tell our constituents.

“This is typical of this Government’s incompetence.”

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.

Newly elected West Yorkshire mayor Tracy Brabin added the change could cause “anxiety and confusion”.

Ms Brabin said she would raise the matter urgently with vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi on Tuesday.

She tweeted: “If Govt are concerned we need clear guidance and support not advice that could cause anxiety and confusion.”