The British government was yesterday thrown into turmoil by its own rules on self-isolation just as it controversially prepares to ditch pandemic curbs in England.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and British Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak will be working remotely in the week ahead after they came into contact with a person infected with COVID-19, Downing Street said.
British Secretary of State for Health Sajid Javid on Saturday confirmed that he had tested positive for COVID-19 and was now self-isolating for 10 days.
He had a “lengthy” meeting with Johnson on Friday, the Sunday Times reported.
The prime minister nearly died of COVID-19 last year. Javid also appeared alongside ministers in Parliament last week, and one government source told the Telegraph newspaper: “I don’t see how half the Cabinet doesn’t end up in isolation by the end of the week.”
Initially, a Downing Street spokesperson said Johnson and Sunak were taking part in a government pilot that enables them to continue working from their offices, while self-isolating outside of work.
Yet in an update after a storm of anger over the announcement, the spokesperson reversed position and said neither official was participating in the pilot, but would conduct business remotely.
Johnson is to remain at the prime minister’s country retreat at Chequers northwest of London, where he was staying when contacted by COVID-19 tracing officials from the British National Health Service.
The carve-out for the special pilot had provoked uproar among social media users and opposition politicians, after millions of schoolchildren and workers were forced to stay home under the tracing rules.
“Sorry for the unparliamentary language but this just takes the pi**,” Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner wrote on Twitter.
The development came just as Johnson’s government prepares to ditch most pandemic restrictions in England today, despite daily infection rates topping 50,000 — behind only Indonesia and Brazil.
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