UK Health Sec. Matt Hancock is facing a furious backlash after claiming new guidance rushed out by the UK government on Thursday night regarding lockdown rules for some areas of North West England, were “absolutely crystal clear.”
During an interview with Sky News on Friday, Hancock defended the government’s rushed late night announcement in relation to restrictions being imposed on parts of Greater Manchester, East Lancashire and West Yorkshire in response to spikes in cases of coronavirus.
Hancock rejected claims the new guidance was confusing, insisting they were “crystal clear,” and designed to cause as little disruption as possible. He said the rules had been put in place to cut transmission of the deadly disease from household to household.
Matt Hancock says “the rules are absolutely crystal clear” adding the “evidence shows the biggest risk in terms of the spread of this virus across this area is household transmission when people go to see each other in each other homes… and also visiting friends and relatives” pic.twitter.com/q7xI4z91Ng
The ban – which took effect from midnight at three hours’ notice – restricts the mixing of two known households or more in all indoor settings, be they homes or social spaces like pubs, cafes, restaurants. However people in the affected areas will still be allowed to mix with strangers in these venues – and even go on holiday with another household.
UK media reported that some local public health directors didn’t know about the new guidance until Hancock made an announcement in a short video clip after 9pm BST on Thursday.
The government eventually published the guidance at 22 minutes past midnight. Notably, while people will be handed a £100 fine for breaking the rules, the law to enforce this doesn’t yet exist.
Chaos reigned for people in the affected regions of the North West with accusations of mixed messages and nonsensical new rules, which spilled over into Friday morning. Many people on Twitter have taken issue with who households can and cannot interact with and where.
One commenter tweeted: “So you can’t go round to each other’s house anymore.. but you can all meet up at the pub and go on holiday together.”
Another person suggested that the new guidance was all about safeguarding “profits” made by business to the detriment of families socialising.
So you can’t go round to each others house anymore.. but you can all meet up at the pub and go on holiday together pic.twitter.com/xR9SoLO6h6
So basically then it amounts to “People can’t meet up unless big businesses are profiting from it”. Gotcha.
Others branded the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis as a “s**t show,” urging British PM Boris Johnson’s administration to focus on the ultimate fix, such as improving their much maligned Covid-19 test and trace system.
Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham – who is responsible for one of the affected regions – told Sky News that he supported the restrictions to stop people dying of coronavirus.
However, in what was perhaps a veiled dig at Hancock, he said UK ministers had “a habit of saying something and then it being a few hours until the detail emerges.”
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