'This just takes the p***': Fury before Johnson and Sunak U-turn on self-isolation

18 July 2021, 09:44 | Updated: 18 July 2021, 13:57

Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak sparked fury earlier this morning
Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak sparked fury earlier this morning. Picture: Alamy
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak saying they would avoid self-isolation after being pinged by the NHS Covid app sparked fury among opposition parties, forcing them to U-turn just hours later.

The prime minister and chancellor were alerted by the app after coming into contact with Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who tested positive for coronavirus on Saturday.

However, initially, neither were going to self-isolate after No10 announced they will be part of a daily contact testing pilot that will allow them to continue to work from Downing Street.

Jonathan Ashworth on Gov U-turn: 'You couldn't make it up could you.'

Participants were meant to be placed into the study at random, according to the government's own press release, but leading opposition politicians questioned the move, saying it was "one rule for them and another rule for everyone else".

Just hours later, the pair issued a statement confirming they had stepped down from the testing pilot.

Read more: Johnson and Sunak 'pinged' by NHS Covid app after Javid tests positive

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Health Secretary Sajid Javid tests positive for Covid-19

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner launched a scathing attack on the initial decision, writing on Twitter: "Sorry for the unparliamentary language but this just takes the p***.

"Not following the rules that they created and which they expect my constituents to follow.

"This government treats the public with contempt and think they are above the law and that the rules don't apply to them."

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Likewise, shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said many people across the UK would have been dismayed by the "special, exclusive rule" for the ministers.

"If it is a pilot, why can't employers apply for their workforce to be part of this pilot, why can't schools apply to be part of this pilot test?" he asked.

Mr Ashworth added: "There will be parents across the country who have struggled when their children have been sent home because they were in a bubble and had to isolate. There will be workers across the country who have to isolate when pinged, including in public services like the NHS.

“This looks like one rule for Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak and something else for the rest of us.

"At a time when we need to maintain confidence in self-isolation, people are going to look at this and wonder what on earth is going on.”

Prior to the U-turn, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey also condemned the way Mr Johnson and Mr Sunak had been able to escape quarantine despite being contacted by NHS Test and Trace.

In a statement, Sir Ed said: "It is one rule for them and another rule for everyone else.

"How about the school teachers, transport workers and health workers getting a chance to be part of this test pilot or is it only for the privileged few?

"People have stuck to the rules and done the right thing, Boris Johnson is taking them for granted."

Co-leader of the Green Party Jonathan Bartley said "anger doesn't begin to cover it".

He wrote on Twitter: "Hundreds of thousands of young people, including my children, had their education and lives repeatedly turned upside down again and again after dutifully and responsibly isolating. And now this.

"Anger doesn't begin to cover it."

Dr Ellie Cannon, an NHS GP and Mail on Sunday columnist, was also quick to criticise the government.

She wrote on Twitter: "There have been low points in this pandemic. And then there have been lower points.

"Perhaps the lowest point for me was watching the funeral prayers of an acquaintance who died in particularly difficult circumstances...

"Their own child, mourning their parent's sudden death, was not allowed in the place of worship with family because they were contact isolating from school.

"No-one found special pilot schemes for them."