Boris Johnson under pressure to allow double jabbed to escape isolation sooner

30 July 2021, 06:30 | Updated: 30 July 2021, 08:39

The PM is under pressure to change the rules
The PM is under pressure to change the rules. Picture: Alamy
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Boris Johnson is facing pressure to match Wales by bringing forward the date on which fully vaccinated people in England can avoid isolation.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has challenged the Government to change their pandemic strategy for England after Wales confirmed fully vaccinated adults will not have to isolate from August 7.

Speaking exclusively to LBC on Tuesday the Prime Minister insisted England is "nailed on" from August 16 to allow double jabbed adults to escape isolation if they come into contact with a positive coronavirus case.

Read more: Rule changes to end pingdemic ‘nailed on’ for August 16, PM tells LBC

Sir Keir, however, has questioned why England should have a later timeline, saying this risks creating more pain for families and businesses.

"This has been a summer of chaos for British businesses and British families," Sir Keir said in a statement.

"The Tory government has never been able to explain the logic of their self-isolation rules and has just repeated the same mistakes over and over again.

"While the British public have been trying to do the right thing, we saw this Government's instincts when Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak tried to avoid the isolation millions have had to endure.

"The Government's slapdash approach to this global pandemic is crippling our economy and creating real problems for businesses and families alike. Welsh Labour has shown what can be done and it's time for the Tories to do the same."

Read more: Nearly 700,000 people 'pinged' by NHS Covid app in a week

Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, defended the August 16 date while speaking to Nick Ferrari on Friday.

He said: "One in three people who are told to self-isolate do go on to develop symptoms, or develop the coronavirus."

Asked whether Wales are being "irresponsible" easing self-isolation rules earlier, Mr Shapps said they have been "more cautious" and "slower on other relaxations" during the pandemic.

"This is a rare occasion, I think, where they are going faster," he told LBC.

"We are having to judge it within the English context and we judged that the August 16th date is the right date to go for.

"It is one of the last things we can do to stop the spread of the virus, now that we've unlocked everything else. I think it is important that we use that last tool to the best of our advantage."

Wales's change will come into effect on the same day the country is expected to move to alert level zero - when most coronavirus restrictions will be lifted.

Anyone who tests positive for Covid-19 or has symptoms must continue to isolate for 10 days regardless of their vaccination status, the Welsh Government added.

It will also advise those identified as a contact of a positive case to have a PCR test on day two and day eight, whether they are fully vaccinated or not.

Scotland is also expected to remove the need for fully vaccinated people to isolate on August 9.

MPs in Westminster and business leaders earlier this month urged Mr Johnson to bring forward the date to ease isolation restrictions after a rise in Covid cases led to a surge in people being "pinged" by the app, which caused disruption to several sectors.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid went on to defend the August 16 date by insisting it was chosen to allow more people to be fully vaccinated - and ultimately reduce the risk of severe illness.

Elsewhere, the UK Government also faced demands to recall Parliament amid concerns that Covid vaccine passports have been introduced by "stealth" via the NHS app.

Confirming the rule change for Wales, Mr Drakeford said: "Self-isolation on symptoms or a positive test result continues to be a powerful measure in helping to break the chains of transmission and stop the spread of the virus.

"It is important we retain this, even for people who have been fully vaccinated.

"But we know a full course of the vaccine offers people protection against the virus and they are far less likely to contract it when they are identified as close contacts.

"This means they no longer need to self-isolate for 10 days.

"We can remove the need for self-isolation for the two million adults who have completed their vaccine course, helping to keep Wales safe and working.

"We are also removing the need for children and young people under 18 to self-isolate, recognising the impact long periods out of school and college is having on their wellbeing and education."

Data published on Thursday showed the number of people being told to self-isolate reached another record, with almost 700,000 alerts sent to Covid app users in England and Wales.

The so-called "pingdemic" saw 689,313 alerts sent to users of the NHS Covid-19 app last week telling them they had been in close contact with someone who had tested positive for coronavirus.

Some frontline workers are exempt from isolation, including those in prisons, waste collection, defence, the food industry, transport, Border Force and police and fire services.

Daily negative test results enable those eligible workers who have been alerted by the NHS Covid-19 app or called by NHS Test and Trace as coronavirus contacts to continue working.

Elsewhere, figures from Public Health England estimated Covid vaccines have prevented an estimated 22 million infections and 60,000 deaths in England.

The data also suggested jabs are estimated to have directly averted more than 52,600 hospital admissions.

The figures were published as England's deputy chief medical officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, said he hopes the worst of the pandemic is behind us but warned there could be "one or two bumpy periods" ahead.

On the NHS app, a tweak to the wording on the NHS Covid Pass section has raised concerns.

It now includes a "domestic" section, which states: "You may need to show your NHS Covid Pass at places that have chosen to use the service."

The Government has said it wants to make vaccine passports mandatory for some settings - such as nightclubs - and crowded events from the autumn.

Liberal Democrat former minister Alistair Carmichael said: "The Government has just committed to vaccine passports by stealth. This deceitful move is deeply shameful."

He added: "At least when Tony Blair tried to introduce ID cards he put a Bill to Parliament, this lot won't even open up Parliament to debate it.

"They must recall Parliament now if they are serious about this."

Parliament is in recess until September 6 and can only be recalled at the request of the Government.