Johnson defends isolation strategy
BORIS Johnson has defended his policy on coronavirus self-isolation despite warnings it will lead to millions of people forced to stay at home and cause major problems for businesses.
The Prime Minister has promised to tear up most of England’s coronavirus regulations at Step 4 of the road map, expected on July 19, but changes to self-isolation rules will not be brought in until August 16.
The expected surge in cases as a result of restrictions being lifted is predicted to lead to millions of contacts being “pinged” by the NHS Covid-19 app or being told by contact tracers to isolate.
From August 16, people in England who have received both doses of a vaccine – as well as the under-18s – will no longer have to self-isolate if they have been in contact with someone who tests positive for Covid-19.
Iceland supermarket boss Richard Walker said the different timings would result in a “s**t show” for firms.
“Our Covid-related absences are growing exponentially,” he said. “Within a week or two they’ll be the highest ever. Covid rules end 19 July. Self-isolation rules not eased until 16 August. This will be a s**t show for business.”
At Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Johnson refused to say how many contacts would be required to self-isolate before the changes are introduced. “What we will be doing is moving away from self-isolation towards testing over the course of the next few weeks, and that is the prudent approach,” he told MPs.
Mr Johnson has warned there could be 50,000 cases a day by July 19 and ministers have warned this could rise to 100,000 later in the summer. In response to questioning from Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, Mr Johnson said scientists are “absolutely clear that we have severed the link between infection and serious disease and death” as a result of the vaccination programme.
But on Monday the Government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance was more cautious, saying “vaccines have weakened the link between cases and hospitalisations, but it’s a weakened link”.
As Sir Keir and Mr Johnson clashed in the Commons, the Prime Minister challenged the Labour leader to say whether he supported the planned lifting of restrictions on July 19. Sir Keir said: “We should open up in a controlled way, keeping baseline protections such as masks on public transport, improving ventilation, making sure the Track and Trace system remains effective, and ensuring proper payments for self-isolation.”
Hospitality chiefs have warned that the delay between restrictions being lifted and the self-isolation rules being eased risks “the summer being cancelled and vast swathes of the population unnecessarily confined to their homes”.
Kate Nicholls, boss of trade body UKHospitality, said: “With cases predicted to continue to rise, this means that hospitality’s recovery after 16 months of lockdown and severely disrupted trading will be harmed.”