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Johnson and Sunak Pull Out of Self-Isolation Exemption After Major Backlash

Johnson and Sunak Pull Out of Self-Isolation Exemption After Major Backlash

Boris Johnson Rishi Sunak

4 min read

Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak have both pulled out of a pilot scheme that would have exempted them from following self-isolation rules, in a major and swift government U-turn.

Downing Street faced a backlash on Sunday morning when it announced that its participation in a little-known workplace daily testing scheme meant the Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer would not be required to follow self-isolation rules in full, despite coming into contact with Health Secretary Sajid Javid who tested positive for the coronavirus on Saturday.

The pair were set to continue doing "essential" work at Downing Street and would only self-isolate when out of work, a spokesperson said early this morning.

However, just a few hours later a Downing Street spokesperson said that Johnson and Sunak had pulled out of the scheme and would be self-isolationg as normal.

They 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.”

Sunak later tweeted: "I recognise that even the sense that the rules aren't the same for everyone is wrong."

Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, this morning said he understood why members of the public might feel "frustrated" by Johnson and Sunak being exempt from the rules, with hundreds of thousands of people across the country currently self-isolating after being pinged by the app.

Over a half million people were sent self-isolation instructions from the NHS Test and Trace app in the first week of July.

“This isn’t available to the wider general public yet and I appreciate the frustration they might feel listening to this," the senior minister told Sky News.

"They like me and 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."

Labour leader Keir Starmer said Johnson and Sunak had been "busted yet again for thinking the ruls that we are all following don't apply them."

He said: “The public have done so much to stick to the rules.

"At a time when we need to maintain confidence in self isolation, parents, workers and businesses will be wondering what on earth is going on in Downing Street.

“The way the Prime Minister conducts himself creates chaos, makes for bad government and has deadly consequences for the British public. 

“Yet again the Conservatives fixed the rules to benefit themselves, and only backtracked when they were found out. They robbed the bank, got caught and have now offered to give the money back.”

"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."

Jonathan Ashworth, the Shadow Health Secretary, earlier this morning described the pilot scheme, which Downing Street said had over 20 participating organisations including Network Rail and Border Face, as a "VIP lane" and "special treatment."

"If it is a pilot, why can’t employers and schools apply? A lot of people are going to be looking at this and thinking: ‘what on Earth is going on?’," he told Sky News.

“This looks like one rule for them and something else for the rest of us."

The Prime Minister's self-isolation comes on the eve of so-called "freedom day," with all legal coronavirus restrictions in England set to be removed on Monday.

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