Boris Johnson has been contacted by NHS Test and Trace as a contact of someone who has tested positive for coronavirus (Covid-19). But the prime minister will not be self-isolating, Downing Street has said.
Instead, he will take part in a daily contact testing pilot which allows him to continue to work from Downing Street.
One rule for them
The announcement follows the disclosure on Saturday 17 July that health secretary Sajid Javid had tested positive for the virus.
The prime minister is reported to have had a lengthy meeting with Javid at No 10 on Friday 16 July.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has also been contacted by Test and Trace. He will also not be self-isolating and will take part in the contact testing pilot instead.
A No 10 spokesperson said:
They will be conducting only essential government business during this period.
However, the disclosure that the prime minister and chancellor have avoided the requirement to quarantine is likely to anger thousands of people. Many have been forced to miss work or stay away from loved ones after being ‘pinged’ by the NHS Covid app.
Meanwhile, there’s reported ‘relief’ in Downing Street that Johnson won’t be confined indoors on so-called “freedom day” on 19 July. This is when most statutory lockdown restrictions end in England.
The rising number of infections has caused staff shortages, as workers pinged by the app are required to self-isolate. London Underground was the latest to be affected on Saturday. The Metropolitan Line was forced to close because of a lack of control room staff.
Most coronavirus restrictions lift in England on Monday. But the rules on self-isolating for contacts of people who test positive are not eased until 16 August. Then people who are double-jabbed will be able to take tests rather than quarantine at home.
Communities secretary Robert Jenrick said members of the public who are pinged should still self-isolate.
He said about 20 public sector organisations were trialling the test-and-release pilot which Johnson and Sunak are using. The organisations include Border Force and Transport for London.
And Jenrick said the two minsters would be tested at a special testing centre set up in Downing Street. He told Sky News:
It means that you can be tested every day in specialist asymptomatic testing centres such at the one that has been set up in Downing Street.
It means that the Chancellor and the Prime Minister will be able to conduct the most essential Government meetings but the rest of their time will have to be spent isolating and not meeting up with family or friends or socialising. So it is relatively restrictive.
I entirely appreciate that this isn’t available yet to wider members of the public and the frustration that they might feel listening to this.
Other members of the public who are pinged will have to self-isolate in the usual way and that is a really important part of our plan to keep Covid under control.
Fund our Investigations Unit
You can help us investigate corruption, expose injustice and uncover the truth.
As one of the only independent investigations units in the country, we work for you – but we need your help to keep going. We need to raise £10,000 to continue our groundbreaking investigations. Can you chip in?