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Boris Johnson u-turns on decision not to self-isolate after UK health secretary tests positive

The prime minister and chancellor quickly came under fire for opting not to self isolate.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak
Image: Jonathan Brady/PA Images

Updated Jul 18th 2021, 4:46 PM

UK PRIME MINISTER Boris Johnson has quickly u-turned on his decision not to self isolate after being deemed a close contact of Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who tested positive for Covid-19 yesterday.

Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak were both in close contact with Javid but initially said they would take part in a pilot scheme involving daily testing instead of isolating, according to BBC News.

Just 157 minutes after saying the prime minister and chancellor would not be isolating, Downing Street said that they would.

Johnson later urged the public to remain vigilant against Covid-19, as England prepares to lift pandemic restrictions tomorrow.

He confirmed he is self-isolating until 26 July.

“Please, please, please be cautious, and go forward tomorrow into the next step with all the right prudence and respect for other people, and the risks that the disease continues to present,” he said in a video posted to Twitter this afternoon.

“We did look briefly at the idea of us taking part in the pilot scheme which allows people to test daily, but I think it’s far more important that everyone sticks to the same rules.”

Johnson and finance minister Rishi Sunak were required to isolate after Health Secretary Sajid Javid confirmed on Saturday he had tested positive for Covid-19.

The pair quickly came under fire for not following due procedure for close contacts of positive cases. Labour leader Keir Starmer wrote on Twitter this morning: “Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak tried to fix the rules yet again to benefit themselves. They only backtracked when they got found out.”

Before Johnson and Sunak’s u-turn, he had written: “Boris Johnson should be setting an example. Instead, he gives himself and his Chancellor preferential treatment. It’s a slap in the face to everyone who has made sacrifices to self isolate.

“It can’t be one rule for the Conservatives and another for everyone else.”

Johnson contracted Covid-19 last year, and spent three days in intensive care.

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Sunak said on Twitter this morning: “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.”

From Monday, the British government plans to lift most pandemic curbs on everyday life in England.

Many scientists are concerned that Prime Minister Boris Johnson is putting politics first in his drive to reopen the economy from Monday, despite a surge in infections driven by the Delta variant.

“This is a threat not just to England but to the whole world – particularly low- and middle-income countries who have very limited access to vaccines,” a group of international scientists said in a joint statement Friday.

For the first time since January, Britain’s daily Covid caseload exceeded 50,000 on Friday, and the government warns it could double from that in the coming weeks.

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