PM admits he 'briefly' considered not self-isolating but now will until 26 July

18 July 2021, 15:44 | Updated: 18 July 2021, 18:20

Boris Johnson has conceded that he considered dodging self-isolating.
Boris Johnson has conceded that he considered dodging self-isolating. Picture: Boris Johnson/PA

By Joe Cook

Boris Johnson has posted a video admitting he and Rishi Sunak "briefly considered" dodging self-isolating by enrolling in a pilot scheme, before U-turning in just a few hours.

In a video released on Twitter, the prime minister said: "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 is far more important that everyone sticks to the same rules and that is why I am going to be self-isolating until Monday 26 July."

It follows a rapid U-turn on Sunday morning after Downing Street initially said the chancellor and PM would not self-isolate despite being pinged by the NHS app after coming into contact with Covid-positive Health Secretary Sajid Javid.

After uproar at the announcement, they later announced they would not enrol in the pilot scheme, which allows people to test daily for seven days rather than isolate for 10.

Read more: Contact testing pilot: Why were Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak not going to isolate?

But Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has accused the government of "double standards" and being "contemptuous of the British public".

"The only reason that he's U-turned on this is because he's been busted. It's like bank robbers who've got caught and now they're offering the money back," he told reporters.

Labour MP Catherine McKinnell also commented: "Of course it’s absolutely normal to issue a press release to announce something only ‘briefly considered’…nothing to see here…ruffle hair….keep taking the public for fools ….off for a swim."

Read more: NHS Covid app 'pingdemic' in numbers

There had been questions around how the chancellor and PM were both planning to avoid self-isolating when the pilot scheme is meant to randomise participants into groups who test daily or who self-isolates as normal.

Cabinet Secretary Michael Gove used the scheme in early June to avoid self-isolating after being pinged following a trip to watch the Champions League final in Portugal.

Speaking to LBC's Swarbrick on Sunday, shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: "It's quite a coincidence that a supposedly randomised trial included Boris Johnson, Rishi Sunak and Michael Gove. What on earth is going on with it?"

The U-turn announcement means that the three most powerful members of government will spend Monday's 'Freedom Day' in self-isolation, alongside the hundreds of thousands of others who have been told to isolate.

Just moments after he conceded attempting to dodge self-isolating, the PM told the public in his video message: "I know how frustrating it all is, but I really do urge everybody to stick with the program and take the appropriate course of action when you are asked to do so by NHS Test and Trace."

He continued: "The reason for that is we are going tomorrow into Step 4. We are doing a big opening up and that is quite right... This is the right moment, but we have got to do it cautiously.

"We have got to remember that this virus is sadly still out there, cases are rising, we can see the extreme contagiousness of the Delta variant.

"But we have this immense consolation and satisfaction that there is no doubt at all that the vaccine program- the massive vaccination program -has very severely weakened the link between infection and hospitalisation, and between infection and serious illness and death. That is the vital thing.

"Please, please, please be cautious. 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.

"And above all when you're asked to get that second jab, get your jab. Please come forward and do it."