People told to 'minimise' rather than 'avoid' travel in or out of Bedford area

The Bedford area has been placed under greater restrictions to help stop the spread of coronavirus Credit: PA Images

People are being told they can travel normally to and from the Bedford and north Bedfordshire area despite the spread of the Indian variant of coronavirus.

New government guidance had been issued for eight areas of England, including the Bedford Borough area, which is tougher than the rest of the region.

Late on Tuesday afternoon the council said travelling to and from the Bedford area is fine and can continue as normal although that conflicted with the guidance on the government website.

Bedford Borough Council said in a statement on Tuesday afternoon: "Following the national coverage of recently revised guidance we have met with national officials and confirmed there are no restrictions on travel in or out of Bedford Borough: There are no local lockdowns"

Later the Department of Health and Social Care said guidance for the eight Covid-19 Indian variant hotspots is to be updated to "make it clearer we are not imposing local restrictions."

A government spokesperson said: "We will be updating the guidance for areas where the new Covid-19 variant is spreading to make it clearer we are not imposing local restrictions.

"Instead, we are providing advice on the additional precautions people can take to protect themselves and others in those areas where the new variant is prevalent.

"This includes, wherever possible, trying to meet outdoors rather than indoors, keeping two metres apart from anyone you don't live with and minimising travel in and out the area.

"These are not new regulations but they are some of the ways everyone can help bring the variant under control in their local area."

People in Bedford are being urged to take up the coronavirus injection if they are offered one Credit: Tim Ireland/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

Bedford Council said: "In areas where the new COVID variant is spreading we are all working together to boost testing and vaccination and to support self-isolation.  There are sensible public health precautions people can take as individuals in line with the sorts of advice we have all been following throughout the pandemic"

"We will keep sharing that and working with national officials to make sure people understand what they need to think about as they go about their daily lives"

Bedford has the third highest rate of coronavirus cases in England after Bolton and Blackburn. There were 323 cases in Bedford in the week to 20 May which is 186 cases per 100,000. It is the highest level of infection in the area since mid February.

The Bedford Borough area is wider than just the town of Bedford and covers most of north Bedfordshire, which has borders with Northamptonshire, Cambridgeshire and Milton Keynes.

It covers an area of 184 square miles with a population of more than 170,000 people.

The Bedford Borough area covers the whole of north Bedfordshire and is home to more than 170,000 people Credit: ITV News Anglia

The guidance for Bedford and the seven other areas on the official government coronavirus website was only updated late on Tuesday evening changing "avoid travelling in and out of affected areas" to "minimise travel."

The new guidance is that, wherever possible, people 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

  • Minimise travel in and out of affected areas

There is also advice to:

  • 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

  • Refer to the local health advice for Bedford

A government spokesman said: “Working with local authorities, we took swift and decisive action to slow the spread of the B1.617.2 (India) variant by introducing surge testing and bringing forward second doses of the vaccine for the most vulnerable"

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