Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak will now self-isolate following outcry over their plans to avoid staying home after Sajid Javid tested positive for COVID-19, Downing Street said.
After Mr. Javid, the newly appointed health secretary, contracted the coronavirus and went into quarantine, it was believed that a number of other ministers and officials may also need to isolate themselves.
Downing Street first said that Mr. Johnson and Mr. Sunak would participate in a pilot program where they would be tested daily and therefore would not have to be quarantined.
After a widespread outcry this morning, however, it has now been reported that the couple will be self-isolating after all.
“The Prime Minister has been contacted by NHS Test and Trace to say he is someone’s contact with COVID“said a spokesperson.
“He was at Checkers when contacted by Test and Trace and will stay there to self-isolate. He will not participate in the test pilot.
“He will continue to hold meetings with ministers remotely. The Chancellor has also been contacted and will also self-isolate if necessary and will not participate in the pilot.”
Mr Sunak tweeted: “Although the test and traceability pilot is quite restrictive, allowing only essential government business, I recognize that even the feeling that the rules are not the same for everyone is wrong. .
“To this end, I will isolate myself as usual and I will not participate in the pilot.”
The move means the Prime Minister will self-isolate on so-called ‘freedom day’ on Monday when most lockdown restrictions end in England.
Reacting to the turnaround, Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “This Tory government is in chaos. Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak have once again been arrested for thinking the rules we all follow did not apply. their.
“The public has done so much to play by the rules. At a time when we need to maintain the confidence in self-isolation, parents, workers and businesses will wonder what is going on in Downing Street.
“The way the Prime Minister conducts himself creates chaos, creates bad government and has deadly consequences for the British public.”
Mr Javid revealed on Saturday that he had tested positive for COVID – just one day after the Health Secretary reportedly met Mr Johnson in Downing Street.
But this morning, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick appeared on Sky News to defend Downing Street’s initial announcement that the Prime Minister and Chancellor would not be isolated.
He said: “I appreciate the frustration [the public] might feel listening to this.
“They, like me, or other members of the audience who are nuts will have to self-isolate in the usual way.”
After seeing Mr Jenrick sent to the morning political programs to defend the initial decision, Sky political correspondent Rob Powell called the situation “confusing”.
“It’s a pretty quick U-turn,” he said.
While Mr Jenrick referred to a ‘ping’, the Prime Minister and Chancellor were in fact contacted directly by NHS Test and Trace rather than just being alerted by the NHS COVID-19 app.
This means that there is a legal obligation to self-isolate, while being pinged by the app is only a guide.
The latest figures show that more than 500,000 people were interviewed by the NHS app in a week, resulting in fears that millions of people will be forced to quit their jobs as coronavirus cases increase.
Mr. Jenrick encouraged people to keep the app installed and to self-isolate when questioned.
Referring to the growing number of people being asked to self-isolate, and about two hours before the last Downing Street U-turn, Mr Jenrick said: “I understand this is proving to be very difficult.”
There are currently 20 private and public sector organizations – including Downing Street – participating in the workplace pilot testing program that allegedly exempted Mr Johnson and Mr Sunak.
The program allows people coming out of isolation to continue working each day they take a lateral flow test.
These include Network Rail, Transport for London, Heathrow Airport and Border Force, according to the government.
It is conducted in conjunction with a general daily contact test study, open to anyone identified as close contact of a positive case.
Cabinet Minister Michael Gove avoided self-isolation in June by participating in a similar program.
Typically, anyone identified as a contact by the dedicated tracking program or the NHS COVID-19 phone app would be required by law to self-isolate for 10 days.
Ahead of the turnaround, the announcement sparked cross-party convictions and double standard accusations, with many MPs stressing that the majority of the public should always isolate themselves.
Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth told Sky’s Trevor Phillips on Sunday: “There will be workers across the country who will have to self-isolate because they’ve been nuts, including in public services, including the NHS.
“For many of them, waking up this morning to hear that there is a special rule, an exclusive rule, for Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak, they will say it sounds like a rule to them and something else. for the rest of us. “
He continued, “No one understands how you can access that special treatment or that VIP path where you don’t have to isolate yourself.”
Boris Johnson should lead by example.
Instead, he grants himself and his chancellor preferential treatment. It is a slap in the face for all those who have made sacrifices to isolate themselves.
It cannot be one rule for the Conservatives and another for everyone.
– Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) July 18, 2021
Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said: “The Prime Minister does not care about the sacrifices made by millions of people. His decision to avoid self-isolation is ruthless and irresponsible.”
And Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley said “anger is not starting to cover her.”
Mr Johnson has also come under pressure within his own party.
On Sunday morning, COVID Recovery Group Chairman Mark Harper reiterated his call for the isolation requirement to be removed for those vaccinated as soon as possible.
“Like I said on Friday, these rules need to change now,” he tweeted.
NHS GP and Mail on Sunday columnist Dr Ellie Cannon also criticized the government.
She wrote on Twitter: “There have been low points in this pandemic. And then there were low points.
“Perhaps the lowest point for me has been watching the funeral prayers of an acquaintance who has passed away under particularly difficult circumstances …
“Their own child, mourning the sudden death of his parents, was not allowed into the place of worship with his family because he was in isolated contact with the school.”
Businesses and NHS leaders have been pushing for the NHS application to be overhauled and made less sensitive amid fears that staff shortages, caused by those who self-isolate, could cripple services.
The London Underground became the last to succumb on Saturday when the The metro line was forced to close due to a lack of staff in the control room.
While most COVID restrictions are lifted in England on Monday, self-isolation rules for contacts of people who test positive are not relaxed until August 16.
Then people with a double bite will be able to take tests rather than quarantining themselves at home.
Mike Cherry, National President of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “We have always said that access to workplace testing will be fundamental to keeping the virus under control as the economy recovers.
“Given that those at the top of government today have a choice between rigorous testing instead of self-isolation, small business owners who have been embarrassed by pings will wonder why they and their staff do not. are not offered the same choice. “
Sunday morning Barnard Castle started trending on Twitter, with many comparing the Prime Minister’s initial failure to self-isolate when Dominic Cummings broke lockdown rules to get to the tourist spot.
Earlier, Sky News deputy political editor Sam Coates said: “The opposition will ask: could this be a moment for Barnard Castle?
“It had big political ramifications… with the government desperately trying to mitigate the damage.”