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Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Dan Bloom

Boris Johnson decides he will self-isolate on 'Freedom Day' in screeching Covid U-turn

Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak will both be in self-isolation on 'Freedom Day' in a screeching Covid U-turn following a meeting with Covid sufferer Sajid Javid.

The pair both announced they will NOT take part in a Covid pilot to avoid isolation - just two and a half hours after they said they would.

A No10 spokesman said: "The Prime Minister has been contacted by NHS Test and Trace to say he is a contact of someone with Covid.

"He was at Chequers when contacted by Test and Trace and will remain there to isolate. He will not be taking part in the testing pilot.

"He will continue to conduct meetings with ministers remotely.

"The Chancellor has also been contacted and will also isolate as required and will not be taking part in the pilot."

Chancellor Rishi Sunak tweeted: "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.

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

The PM and Chancellor Rishi Sunak initially said they'd be part of a daily testing pilot, despite being 'pinged' following a meeting with Covid-ridden Health Secretary Sajid Javid in Downing Street.

It would have meant they avoided having to be in self-isolation on so-called 'Freedom Day' tomorrow.

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Both Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak were going to avoid having to self-isolate (JESSICA TAYLOR/UK PARLIAMENT/HANDOUT/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

But the 'one rule for them' example prompted fury and fears it would undermine trust in the rules, with the Lib Dems branding it 'Barnard Castle on steroids'.

It means Mr Johnson will be holed up at his country retreat Chequers for the next week while laws on masks, social distancing and the 'rule of six' indoors are all axed.

Under the scheme, they would have taken daily tests and only self-isolate from their work if they come back positive.

Yet the move prompted widespread anger, as daily contact testing for the wider public is still months away from any possible introduction.

The daily contact testing pilot currently only covers 20 organisations - one of which is No10. Others include Network Rail, TFL, Heathrow and Border Force.

Mystery still surrounds the exact eligibility criteria for the scheme, which No10 officials claimed is assessed on a case-by-case basis.

When details of the pilot were published in April, the government said participants would be "randomly" placed into one of two groups - those who can avoid isolation, and a control group who still have to isolate.

Yet the PM and Chancellor both managed to get into the isolation avoidance group. Reports suggest they were on a different version of the scheme without a control group.

People who take part in the pilot must still self-isolate when not at work.

Before the U-turn, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick insisted ordinary Brits who have contact with a positive case must continue to isolate to "tackle the virus right now".

He told Sky News: "I entirely appreciate your point that this isn’t available yet to wider members of the public and I appreciate the frustration they might feel listening to this.

"They, like me or other members of the public who are pinged, will have to self-isolate in the usual way and that’s a really important part of our plan to keep Covid under control."

But Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth blasted the “one rule for them” policy that will “stick in people’s throats” - and warned it could undermine people’s trust in the rules.

Lib Dem leader Ed Davey said before the U-turn: “The Prime Minister is making a mockery of the sacrifices millions of people have made. His decision to duck self isolation is callous and irresponsible.

“Through refusing to self isolate the Prime Minister is effectively destroying the whole test and trace system.

“This is Barnard Castle on steroids. Johnson mustn’t do a Cummings.”

Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth said the U-turn was the right decision but added: “Gosh, hasn’t it been absolute chaos.”

He said parents and staff would have been “outraged at Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak trying to exempt themselves from the rules.

“It really was one rule for them and another for the rest of us and they’ve only U-turned because they’ve been caught out.”

Mr Ashworth demanded a Commons statement on Monday on exactly how access to the pilot scheme was decided.

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