The director of public health at Hounslow Council says she is expecting the government to remove the advice around restricting travel in and out of the borough following criticism from council leaders and residents.
On Friday evening (May 21), guidance appeared on the government website, advising against travel in and out of eight areas of England which had seen an increase in cases of the Indian variant.
One of those areas was Hounslow, in West London, but no official announcement was made and the guidance was not discovered on the website until yesterday evening (May 24).
Since then, the advice and lack of communication has been criticised by council figures and residents alike.
Kelly O’Neill, the director of public health at Hounslow Council, has told a press conference today that following talks, she is expecting the government to backtrack on this advice, and to remove the advice around restricting travel into and around the borough again.
She told the press conference: “From the conversations we had at lunchtime, I expect the government to reword the phrasing on the website to state that there can be movement in, out and around the borough.
“I would also see that as an opportunity to recognise that there are eight surge areas, we have the opportunity to increase our testing, and to increase the number of people that are getting vaccinated because we’ve been very constrained by the number of vaccines that have been allocated to us.
“This is an opportunity to do things faster and I welcome that.”
She also told the press conference that the advice has been ‘confusing’ and she had been ‘answering emails all day’ instead of doing what she should be, and ‘going to testing sites’ and dealing with surge testing, and vaccinations.
Leader of the council, Councillor Steve Curran, also criticised the information provided by the government and described the process as ‘shambolic’.
He said: “You’ve got people who want to travel to Heathrow tomorrow, to travel to a green country and don’t know whether to cancel their flights.
“We’ve had business events for tomorrow which have been cancelled because of the absolutely shambolic information that has come out from central government.
“That information appearing on the website late on Friday night, I can only assume was a junior civil servant trying to do their best, and the idea that I personally, or the council’s been informed by email or letter the advice that the government is putting out, is completely and utterly untrue.”
He added: “I had no information about Matt Hancock’s announcement about surge testing last Wednesday, not any information that we were going to put in a ‘local lockdown.
“I am very pleased to here from Kelly that hopefully the government is going to see sense and we are going to get some clear guidance this afternoon or early this evening.”
He also told journalists, that he believes residents of Hounslow should follow the guidelines as they were and ‘go about their business normally, but being cautious, especially those living in the surge areas’.
An official announcement is expected to be made later on this afternoon, and the Department for Health and Social Care has been contacted for confirmation and more information.