New guidance has advised people to avoid travelling into and out of the eight local authority areas of England among the worst affected by the Indian Covid-19 variant.
However, the decision appears to have been issued without any widespread announcement, prompting criticism from MPs.
The government's coronavirus restrictions website appeared to have changed its guidance on Friday for people living in eight areas where the new COVID-19 variant of concern is spreading.
The new advice applies to Bedford council, Blackburn with Darwen council, Bolton Metropolitan council, Burnley council, Kirklees council, Leicester council, Hounslow council and North Tyneside council.
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‘A recipe for confusion and uncertainty’
Layla Moran, chairwoman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus, said updating the guidance without a proper announcement “is a recipe for confusion and uncertainty”.
“Local people and public health leaders in these areas need urgent clarity from the Government. Matt Hancock must come before Parliament and make a public statement to explain these new rules,” she said.
On Monday night, none of the eight authorities appeared on their own websites to be advising residents to avoid travelling into or out of their council areas.
Yasmin Qureshi, Labour MP for Bolton South East and shadow international development minister, said: “I was not informed of this and I understand nor was anyone else in Bolton.
“I’m just gobsmacked. They’re making such an important announcement and they don’t even have the decency to tell us or tell our constituents.
“This is typical of this Government’s incompetence.”
Newly elected West Yorkshire mayor Tracy Brabin added the change could cause “anxiety and confusion”.
Ms Brabin said she would raise the matter urgently with vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi on Tuesday.
She tweeted: “If Govt are concerned we need clear guidance and support not advice that could cause anxiety and confusion.”
A spokesperson for the Department for Health and Social Care said: "Working with local authorities, we took swift and decisive action to slow the spread of the B.1.617.2 variant by introducing surge testing and bringing forward second doses of the vaccine for the most vulnerable.
"We provided additional guidance for those living in affected areas when we became aware of the risk posed by the variant, to encourage people to take an extra cautious approach when meeting others or travelling."