UK PM Johnson reverses plan to skip quarantine after Covid-19 exposure

uk_pm_johnson_reverses_plan_to_skip_quarantine_after_covid_19_exposure.jpg / LONDON (REUTERS) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and finance minister Rishi Sunak will both self-isolate in line with national guidance, abandoning heavily criticised plans to take part in a pilot scheme that would have allowed them to continue working.

The government announced that Johnson and Sunak has been exposed to a person with Covid-19 and would take part in a trial scheme that allowed them to keep working instead of self-isolating for 10 days.

But less than three hours later that decision had been reversed after a flurry of criticism from voters, political opponents and business owners.

Mr Johnson will isolate at Chequers, his country residence, a spokesman said in a statement.

“He will not be taking part in the testing pilot,” a spokesman from Johnson’s office said.

“He will continue to conduct meetings with ministers remotely. The Chancellor (Sunak) has also been contacted and will also isolate as required and will not be taking part in the pilot.”

Opposition politicians said it was hypocritical for Johnson and Sunak to be exempt from some of the rules.

“It looks like for a lot of us it is indeed one rule for them at the top and another for the rest of us,” Labour Party health spokesman Jonathan Ashworth told Sky News.

In a separate tweet, Sunak acknowledged the backlash over their initial decision, which came a day after health minister Sajid Javid said he had tested positive for Covid-19.

“Whilst the test and trace pilot is fairly restrictive, allowing only essential government business, I recognise that even the sense that the rules aren’t the same for everyone is wrong,” he said.

“To that end I’ll be self isolating as normal and not taking part in the pilot.”

The government’s handling of the pandemic has been dogged with episodes that have damaged public trust – most recently when then-health minister Matt Hancock was pictured kissing an adviser , in breach of social distancing regulations. He later resigned.

The virus has disrupted the heart of government at a time when its coronavirus response is under intense scrutiny: almost all remaining restrictions in England will be lifted on Monday despite a huge surge in infections as ministers put their faith in the advanced vaccine programme.

As cases rise by more than 50,000 a day, hundreds of thousands of Britons are being asked to self isolate for 10 days, causing havoc for employers and parents, forcing train cancellations and causing some businesses to close their doors.

Housing minister Robert Jenrick confirmed that the government would go ahead with its ‘freedom day’ plan on Monday , removing the requirement to wear face masks, lifting limits on social gatherings and allowing high-risk businesses to reopen.

Ministers argue that the vaccination programme, under which 87.8 per cent of the population has had one vaccine and 67.8 per cent have been double vaccinated, has largely broken the link between cases and mortality.

“The last time we had cases at the level we do today, the number of people dying from the virus was 30 times the number it is today,” Jenrick told the BBC.

Nevertheless, the surge in cases is causing problems for employers, with more than half a million people told to self isolate via the government’s tracing app in the week to July 7.

In mid-August, Britain plans to change its rules on self isolation to exempt those who have been double vaccinated from the requirement to stay at home for 10 days.

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