Boris Johnson has abandoned plans to avoid quarantine after being contacted by NHS Test and Trace following a furious political backlash.
The Prime Minister and Chancellor Rishi Sunak had originally planned to take daily tests rather than self-isolate following meetings last week with Health Secretary Sajid Javid who has tested positive for Covid-19.
But in a dramatic turnaround Downing Street said the two ministers would be self-isolating rather than taking part in a daily contact testing pilot.
“The Prime Minister has been contacted by NHS Test and Trace to say he is a contact of someone with Covid,” a spokesman said.
“He was at Chequers when contacted by Test and Trace and will remain there to isolate. He will not be taking part in the testing pilot.
“He will continue to conduct meetings with ministers remotely. The Chancellor has also been contacted and will also isolate as required and will not be taking part in the pilot.”
The U-turn came less that three hours after No 10 announced the two ministers would carry on working in Downing Street while taking daily tests.
That sparked outrage amid warnings it risked undermining the Government’s messaging on continuing to self-isolation at a critical point in the pandemic.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the Government was in “chaos” at a time when in needed to maintain public confidence.
“Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak have been busted yet again for thinking the rules that we are all following don’t apply to them,” he said.
“The way the Prime Minister conducts himself creates chaos, makes for bad government and has deadly consequences for the British public.
“Yet again the Conservatives fixed the rules to benefit themselves and only backtracked when they were found out. They robbed the bank, got caught and have now offered to give the money back.”
We will start with initial reactions to the PM and Sunak trying to skip self-isolation first…
I’m in a really bad place at the moment. Not mentally, I just live in the UK.— Tom Knight (@TJ_Knight) July 18, 2021
As I said last week to the Prime Minister, it can’t be one rule for him and his elite chums, and another for the rest of us plebs.— Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi MP (@TanDhesi) July 18, 2021
Despite his apology, not surprised with this constant disgraceful truth-twisting!https://t.co/JTuDN52AYt
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.— Ed Davey MP 🔶🇪🇺 (@EdwardJDavey) July 18, 2021
A VIP lane for PPE contracts, a VIP lane for testing contracts and now a VIP lane for getting pinged but not having to isolate.— Angela Rayner (@AngelaRayner) July 18, 2021
A government of fraudsters and grifters conning the public. https://t.co/XqKUksYXT2
This is an old story folks … @BorisJohnson and @RishiSunak being randomly selected by the pilot trial …. It happened to Mugabe too!! I met him a few times. Truly revolting. Johnson heading for the same league pic.twitter.com/CWOCnx4CX4— ALASTAIR CAMPBELL (@campbellclaret) July 18, 2021
So far, members of this govt can:— Rachel Clarke (@doctor_oxford) July 18, 2021
1. Go to work instead of self-isolate
2. Ravish employees at work instead of socially distance
3. Test their eyes on 600 mile road trips instead of obey lockdown
4. Hand billion pound contacts out like smarties to mates
I dream of decency 😔
In this week’s episode of One Rule For Us, One Rule For Them: https://t.co/1PLiNrdAqW— David Schneider (@davidschneider) July 18, 2021
Reactions to the u-turn
Here are some of the most cutting reactions
Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak won’t be isolating.— Larry the Cat (@Number10cat) July 18, 2021
*a very short amount of time later*
Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak will be isolating. pic.twitter.com/sLXpB9qkeL
Wow. @BorisJohnson and @RishiSunak have now chosen to isolate and not participate in the exemption pilot. They plainly concluded if they didn’t isolate almost no one would pic.twitter.com/NCBBDd22yp— Robert Peston (@Peston) July 18, 2021
How it started…how it’s going pic.twitter.com/yRInXlyaMG— Kate Wilsea (@katewilsea) July 18, 2021
Is that a "U-turn" or a "climbdown"? Never sure— Adam Hurrey (@FootballCliches) July 18, 2021
How has this government managed to cock up staying indoors. It’s literally the easiest thing in the world.— Luke McGee (@lukemcgee) July 18, 2021
British politics. I mean. You’ve got to hand it to them it’s not dull— Janine Gibson (@janinegibson) July 18, 2021
The mess of the UK government is largely explained by them holding the public in utter contempt.— Colin Millar (@Millar_Colin) July 18, 2021
They think the public are simplistic, incapable of independent thought or analysis – plebs, below them in life's hierarchy.
As long as they see a giant UK flag, they'll be happy.
As someone who has had to isolate for the week and cancelled 5 gigs to do so, let me say I am delighted they have abandoned this pilot scheme. In unrelated news I am abandoning my pilot scheme of posting dogshit to 10 & 11 Downing Street.— Nish Kumar (@MrNishKumar) July 18, 2021
Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak having to self-isolate for "freedom day" is literally too perfect an analogy for the expectations vs reality meme— James McManus (@JamesMcManus1) July 18, 2021
‘I won’t be swimming myself, I’m part of a pilot scheme to stay uneaten’ pic.twitter.com/3ao7Tb4w9K— Dave Lee (@davelee1968) July 18, 2021
The UK Government is like the greatest ‘The Thick of It’ episode of all time. pic.twitter.com/S31PzNXxA6— Rob Dowling (@Rob_Dowling) July 18, 2021