HALF-TERM and Bank Holiday plans are set to be ruined by new Covid rules rolled out to stop the spread of the Indian variant.
Thousands of family getaways and long-awaited trips in the next few weeks will have been destroyed by the latest guidance, quietly brought in a few days ago.
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Locals in eight hotspots where the variant has become the dominant virus have been told to only meet outside and stay two metres apart.
Ministers are warning people not to enter or leave areas where the mutation is spreading fastest "unless it is essential".
The change in the rules effectively partially scraps the latest round of unlocking for people in the hotspots.
And it means anyone who might have planned to visit friends, family or even just have a staycation in these areas may have to have a sudden rethink.
Only work and education counts as essential travel when leaving the hotspots, meaning holidays are once more off the cards.
People hoping to leave areas across northern England, the Midlands and parts of London now have to stay at home, and return to meeting pals outside.
The upcoming Bank Holiday this weekend is the first that people in England are allowed to travel abroad, sit indoors together as a group of six, or as two households in unlimited numbers.
Groups of 30 are allowed outside and two households are able to rent out a holiday home together over half term next week (from May 28).
HOLIDAY HOPES DASHED
But eager friends and family in the eight hotspots who planned to get away and celebrate the latest unlocking will now be left sorely disappointed, as they are asked to stay local and not mix.
The new government guidance 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 applies to Bedford, Blackburn, Bolton, Burley, Kirklees, Leicester, Hounslow and North Tyneside.
But local leaders and MPs weren't even told about the changes, which were dumped on the Government website last Friday evening.
There was no public announcement, and they didn't find out until last night when journalists started to flag the new guidance.
Newly elected West Yorkshire mayor Tracy Brabin added the change could cause "anxiety and confusion".
And she vowed to raise the matter urgently with vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi today.
North Tyneside's local health chief Wendy Burke questioned why the new rules weren't raised in an announcement about more mass testing last week.
It is understood the guidance was first introduced for Bolton as far back as May 14, meaning it has secretly been in place for weeks.
The new rules were not mentioned in an official announcement about beefed-up testing measures in the area published on the same date.
Other regions were included in the essential travel guidance as data from surge testing became available.
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