'You couldn't make it up': Labour slam government over PM self-isolation U-turn

18 July 2021, 12:43 | Updated: 18 July 2021, 12:53

By Joe Cook

Labour's shadow health secretary has told LBC it's "beggars belief" that Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak planned to avoid self-isolating after coming into contact with the health secretary - who has Covid-19.

Jonathan Ashworth was speaking to LBC's Swarbrick on Sunday just moments after Downing Street pulled a U-turn, announcing that the PM and chancellor would be self-isolating.

No10 initially said on Sunday morning that the pair would participate in a daily contact testing pilot to allow them to continue to work from Downing Street.

The announcement sparked widespread accusations of double standards, particularly as the NHS app 'pingdemic' causes chaos for businesses, the NHS and transport networks, with over half a million told to isolate last week.

Read more: Johnson and Sunak will now self-isolate after stepping down from Covid testing pilot

Read more: 'It just takes the p***': Fury before Johnson and Sunak U-turn

Asked by Tom Swarbrick what he thought of the U-turn, Mr Ashworth laughed and said: "Oh my word. You couldn't make it up, could you? You couldn't make it up."

"This morning when we heard that Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak were taking advantage of this exclusive VIP test and release scheme, I just thought about all the parents in my constituency in Leicester who have had cope with their children being sent back home because of the bubble isolation system.

Read more: NHS Covid app 'pingdemic' in numbers: Surge in people being told to self isolate

Read more: Metropolitan Tube line suspended after staff 'pinged' by NHS Covid app

"Or think about employers struggling. because they have had staff off isolating. Or indeed the NHS, who are struggling because they have got some of their frontline staff off isolating.

"I just thought 'God, this just looks like one rule for them and another for the rest of us'. It really was beggar's belief. Now they have U-turned on it, because they have obviously seen the outcry and upset across the country and understandably so."

The shadow health secretary also told LBC he will be asking a question in Parliament tomorrow to demand answers from the government about how Boris Johnson, Rishi Sunak and Michael Gove all managed to be signed up for the trial.

"It does call into question what this system is. It is quite a coincidence that a supposedly randomised trial included Boris Johnson, Rishi Sunak and Micheal Gove. I mean what on earth is going on with it?"

"There will be people across the country thinking why can't I access it? Not least NHS staff, the NHS is in a summer crisis.

"We have got hospitals cancelling cancer operations, a hospital in Birmingham cancelled liver operations at the end of last week, that is the scale of the pressure on the NHS both because of the Covid admissions going up and also because they are struggling to keep their staff on the front line."