Free fully-vaccinated from having to isolate sooner than August, Boris Johnson told

24 July 2021, 00:03 | Updated: 24 July 2021, 00:51

Boris Johnson, who himself is currently isolating, is under increasing pressure to bring forward a change that would allow fully-vaccinated people to avoid quarantine as long as they test negative
Boris Johnson, who himself is currently isolating, is under increasing pressure to bring forward a change that would allow fully-vaccinated people to avoid quarantine as long as they test negative. Picture: Alamy

By Daisy Stephens

Boris Johnson is facing growing calls to immediately allow fully vaccinated contacts of coronavirus cases to be freed from isolation if they test negative in order to prevent staffing crises.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has added to demands from businesses to end the "pingdemic" by loosening the rules for people alerted by the NHS Covid-19 app.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, the Labour mayor teamed up with industry bodies including UKHospitality and the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the capital's branch of the Federation of Small Businesses to demand change.

Amid rising coronavirus cases, they warned that staff shortages in pubs and restaurants are being "exacerbated" and leading to temporary closure as a result of pings from the NHS Covid-19 app.

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"The summer months are crucial for many businesses' recovery and their ability to recover must not be put in jeopardy," they said.

"We are therefore calling on you to ensure that the necessary testing is in place to enable people who have been double vaccinated for longer than two weeks and pinged by the NHS Covid app, to immediately return to work, following a negative PCR test, rather than having to self-isolate."

There is also some cross-party support for the rules to be relaxed, with Conservative former health secretary Jeremy Hunt having warned the Government it faces "losing social consent" for isolation if it does not act now.

Mr Johnson has planned a wider relaxation of the quarantine rules to end isolation for the double-jabbed and under-18s from August 16 if they test negative for coronavirus.

The Prime Minister has already announced a list of sectors where critical workers may be able to avoid having to isolate if told to quarantine by the NHS app.

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However, the list is far from exhaustive and business chiefs have warned that many industries, such as the hospitality sector, will continue to suffer from serious disruption as a result of the 'pingdemic'.

It comes as Transport for London (TfL) and other train operators announced revised schedules and closed train lines as the current isolation rules left them short-staffed.

So far, however, the Government has resisted pressure to broaden the exemption.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng told LBC on Thursday that No10 was still planning on maintaining self-isolation rules until next month.

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"I think that we can stick to August 16," he said.

"We wanted to lift restrictions on 19 July and there was clear evidence to suggest that that was a good idea.

"But we also wanted to have a precaution in terms of protecting our people. So I think that self-isolation, once you're pinged, makes complete sense.

"These restrictions aren’t going to last forever."