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UK Prime Minister Johnson cancels plan to skip quarantine after COVID exposure

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  • PM turns around after backlash, will now self-isolate
  • Plan to dodge full quarantine lasted less than three hours
  • ‘Freedom Day’ plans to continue despite increasing cases
  • Johnson begs the public to take a cautious approach

LONDON, July 18 (Reuters) – UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Finance Minister Rishi Sunak will both self-isolate under national guidelines, dropping their heavily criticized plans to participate in a pilot program that would have allowed them to continue to work.

The U-turn comes a day after Health Minister Sajid Javid said he tested positive for COVID-19 and at a time when the government’s response to the coronavirus is under close scrutiny.

Almost all remaining restrictions in England will be lifted on Monday despite an upsurge in infections as ministers trust the advanced vaccine program. Read more

Cases rise by more than 50,000 a day and hundreds of thousands of Britons are asked to self-isolate for 10 days, wreaking havoc on employers and parents, causing train cancellations and forcing some businesses to close their doors .

The government announced at 07:00 GMT that Johnson and Sunak had been exposed to someone with COVID-19 and would be participating in a testing program that would allow them to continue working instead of self-isolating.

But less than three hours later, that decision was overturned after a wave of criticism from voters, political opponents and business owners.

“We briefly looked at the idea of ​​being part of the pilot program… but I think it’s much more important that everyone follow the same rules,†Johnson said in a video message from his country residence, where he s. ‘will isolate. until July 26.

Opposition politicians had said it was hypocritical of Johnson and Sunak for trying to exempt themselves from certain rules.

“Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak were arrested again for thinking the rules we all follow did not apply to them,†Labor leader Keir Starmer said.

Sunak also acknowledged the backlash from their initial decision.

“I recognize that even the feeling that the rules are not the same for everyone is wrong,” he said on Twitter.

The government’s handling of the pandemic has been marked by episodes that have damaged public confidence – most recently when then-Health Minister Matt Hancock was pictured kissing a counselor, in violation of social distancing regulations. He then resigned.

Housing Minister Robert Jenrick confirmed the government will move forward with its ‘freedom day’ plan on Monday, removing the requirement to wear face masks, lifting limits on social gatherings and allowing reopening high-risk businesses. Read more

Johnson used his video message to implore the public to take a cautious approach to the rule change.

“Please, please, please be careful,†he said.

“Take the next step tomorrow with all due care and respect for others, for the risks that the disease continues to present and, above all, please, please, please. please when you are asked to receive that second jab.. please go ahead and do it. “

The ministers argue that the vaccination program, in which 87.8% of the adult population received a vaccine and 67.8% were doubly vaccinated, largely severed the link between cases and mortality.

“The last time we had cases at the level we have today, the number of people who died from the virus was 30 times that of today,†Jenrick told the BBC.

Reporting by William James and Guy Faulconbridge; edited by Kirsten Donovan and Jane Merriman

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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