Europe

UK PM avoids self-isolation after health secretary tests positive

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been designated by the country’s test-and-trace system as a close contact of a confirmed coronavirus case — but unlike thousands of Britons, he won’t have to stay home for 10 days.

Instead, he will take a daily COVID-19 test as part of a new government pilot scheme, Downing Street said on Sunday.

Johnson, along with Finance Minister Rishi Sunak, were both designated after Health Secretary Sajid Javid said he tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday.

Johnson and Sunak “will be participating in the daily contact testing pilot to allow them to continue to work from Downing Street,” a spokesperson said.

“They will be conducting only essential government business during this period,” the Downing Street spokesperson added, while self-isolating outside of work.

Javid, who is fully vaccinated, stressed his symptoms were “very mild.”

Javid took over last month from Matt Hancock, who resigned after breaching social distancing rules.

Johnson spent several days in intensive care with the virus last year.

‘Experiment’

Fueled by the more contagious Delta variant, COVID-19 cases have been rising for weeks in Britain. More than 54,000 new infections were reported on Saturday, the highest daily total since January.

Hospitalisations and deaths are also rising, but remain far lower than at previous infection peaks thanks to vaccinations.

With cases soaring, the decision to ditch remaining restrictions in England on Monday has sparked criticism from experts and opposition politicians.

“As international experts have said, lifting all restrictions at once on Monday is an experiment,” tweeted Munira Wilson, health spokeswoman for the opposition Liberal Democrats.

The government is advising people to remain cautious. Face masks will still be required on London’s buses and subways and some other transit networks.

‘Double standards’

The fact that government officials were allowed to work despite being designated as contact cases drew accusations of double standards from opposition politicians.

Labour’s shadow Health SecretaryJohn Ashworth told Sky News that the public will see “one rule for them and something else for the rest of us.”

The UK is said to face a “pingdemic” of hundreds of thousands of people being told to quarantine because they have been near someone who tested positive.

Businesses including restaurants, car manufacturers and the London subway say they are facing staff shortages because of the self-isolation rules.

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