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Kwasi Kwarteng Says Covid Self-Isolation Is “Not Perfect Solution” After Warnings Of Chaos

Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said self-isolation "not perfect solution" but dismissed suggestion millions will have to stay at home this summer (Alamy)

3 min read

The business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has conceded that keeping the self-isolation policy for close contacts of Covid cases after the end of other restrictions is "not a perfect solution”.

It comes after business groups warned of chaos with millions forced to stay at home for 10 days before the requirement lifts for those who have had two doses of the vaccine on 16 August.

With cases of the delta variant still rising ahead of the fourth step on the roadmap out of lockdown being taken, the health secretary Sajid Javid said the UK could see 100,000 coronavirus infections per day this summer.

With each of those people having come into contact with at least two people that means at least 1.5 million more people will be pinged by the Test & Trace app each week.

Javid confirmed yesterday that double jabbed people will be exempt from quarantine from the middle of next month, but the hospitality industry say this will not help them deal with the current “carnage" of staff shortages created by self-isolation, often forcing them to close businesses. 

“Around 60% of our staff are aged between 15-34 and the vast majority will not have had the opportunity to receive both jabs by August 16,” said Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality.

Speaking this morning, Kwarteng was asked about concerns over the policy, responding: "You can't have it both ways.

“On the one hand we're saying we want to reopen but we're giving a measure of precaution in terms of delaying the lifting of self-isolation restrictions.”

 "It's a balance, it's not a perfect solution," he told Sky News.

“But on the one hand we're saying that we can reopen and on the other we're saying that we want to give a little bit more protection in terms of the self-isolation rules.”

The business secretary also rejected the suggestion millions of people could end up self-isolating due to coronavirus contacts this summer.

"I don't think you can necessarily conclude there will be millions,” he added.Javid also confirmed yesterday that from 16 August, people aged under 18 will not have to isolate if they come into close contact with someone who has tested positive. 

In a Commons statement he said they will instead be given "advice" to take a test, depending on their age, and then will only have to quarantine if they test positive.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson later confirmed to the Commons that the system of “school bubbles” will be scrapped alongside other Covid restrictions on 19 July.

He said the policy had proved “essential to control the spread of the virus when our population was less vaccinated”, but admitted the requirement for entire bubbles to self-isolate was “causing disruption to many children's education”, with hundreds of thousands of pupils currently at home.

This morning The Sun reported that the government will announce further changes to the foreign travel system this week.

Transport secretary is set to Grant Shapps confirm the government will remove the need for those with two vaccine doses to quarantine upon their return from an ‘amber list’ country from 19 July onwards. 

It means travellers to popular European destinations such as France, Spain, Italy and Greece will only have to take a test before they come back to Britain, and then another on the second day of return.

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