Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak to spend 'freedom day' in isolation after pilot scheme backlash

The Prime Minister and Chancellor will spend so-called ‘freedom day’ self-isolating having been forced into a u-turn following furious backlash to their proposed involvement with a workplace testing pilot that would have allowed them to avoid quarantine.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak pictured together in October 2020 (Jonathan Brady/PA)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak pictured together in October 2020 (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak were contacted by Test and Trace after having meetings with Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who announced that he had tested positive on Saturday.

Early on Sunday it was announced that both Mr Johnson and Mr Javid would participate in a workplace testing scheme which prompted outcry. Less than three hours later it was confirmed that both men would self-isolate as normal, with Richmond MP Mr Sunak tweeting: “I recognise that even the sense that the rules aren’t the same for everyone is wrong.”

Sign up to our daily newsletter

A snap poll from Savanta ComRes found that 60% of the public thought that the initial proposal for the Prime Minister and Chancellor to dodge isolation was "unfair" compared to 33% who thought it was "fair". In total, 78% of people thought that the u-turn was the right decision.

South Yorkshire mayor and Labour Barnsley MP Dan Jarvis described the incident as “yet another shambolic episode from the government in its handling of the pandemic.”

“The contradictory and confusing messages are undermining public confidence in the rules and efforts to get the virus back under control at a critical time,” he added.

Meanwhile Leeds MP Alex Sobel said "it's not a good enough system where a few can fix the rules for themselves," and a Conservative MP told The Yorkshire Post that they had received emails from constituents who are self-isolating and those who had been pinged wanted Mr Johnson to have isolated straight away.

As rules are lifted in England today, Mr Johnson urged caution and called on all adults to come forward for both doses of a Covid vaccine as cases continue to rise, with more than 48,000 recorded on Sunday.

From today, mask mandates will be scrapped alongside social distancing regulations and capacity limits at venues, giving large events and weddings the go-ahead with unlimited guests.

Holidays to amber list destinations apart from France are also back on the cards for those who are double jabbed and children under the age of 18, as the ten-day home quarantine requirement on return has now also gone.

Meanwhile, as positive tests continue to soar, a scientist whose modelling was influential in the Government’s decision to order the first lockdown in 2020 said it was “inevitable” that cases would reach 100,000 a day.

He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show: “The real question is, do we get to double that or even higher? And that’s where the crystal ball starts to fail. We could get to 2,000 hospitalisations a day, 200,000 cases a day, but it’s much less certain.”

Professor Ferguson also said he “can’t be certain” on whether the country will need to lock down again before Christmas.

His comments come after former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt warned that the Government may need to reimpose restrictions if cases continue to increase towards the autumn.

“The warning light on the NHS dashboard is not flashing amber, it is flashing red,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme on Saturday.

He added: “If [cases] are still going up as the schools are coming back I think we are going to have to reconsider some very difficult decisions. How we behave over the next few weeks will have a material difference.”