Burnley not under 'local lockdown' as MP demands clearer government communication

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People in Burnley are still "free to exercise their freedoms" after the MP confirmed the town was not under a local lockdown.

Antony Higginbotham confirmed the latest guidance was not a change in law, but urged residents across the borough to remain "extra cautious" by keeping their distance and not hugging amid concerns the variant first identified in India was spreading quickly.

Asking an urgent question to vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi in the House of Commons earlier, Mr Higginbotham said: "What we need now, more than ever, is very clear communication from the government so that residents on Burnley, Blackburn and Bolton know exactly what's expected of them

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"Could the minister confirm that this guidance is guidance, and my constituents can still exercise the freedom that they reclaimed last Monday?"

Burnley MP Antony HigginbothamBurnley MP Antony Higginbotham
Burnley MP Antony Higginbotham

Mr Zahawi responded by saying that in terms of the guidance, people had to be "careful and vigilant".

While his reply did not answer the question directly, Mr Higginbotham confirmed in a social media post afterwards that there was no local lockdown.

He also requested a meeting with the minister to talk through what more could be done to make sure communication is clear in the areas where it is needed most. Mr Zahawi accepted.

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In his social media post, Mr Higginbotham added: "We all recognise the need to remain cautious if we’re to allow the vaccine rollout, which is being surged in our area, to continue successfully, given it takes time for that to provide good levels of immunity.

"That’s why a surge in testing is also being put in place, which I would encourage everyone to take part in; as well as an ask for us all to be mindful of the new variant by, for example, keeping distance and not hugging.

"That’s what this new guidance notes - and importantly this is not a change in the law, but a reinforcement of the ask for caution."