Bringing forward the self-isolation exemption date for the fully vaccinated would make a “huge difference” to businesses and holidaymakers, the Labour leader has said.
Sir Keir Starmer has issued a “challenge” to Boris Johnson to follow Labour’s lead in Wales after First Minister Mark Drakeford confirmed 7 August as the day when double-jabbed adults can escape isolation if they come into contact with a positive coronavirus case.
Scotland is also expected to remove the need for fully vaccinated people to isolate on 9 August, but the prime minister has insisted England is “nailed on” to make the same move from 16 August.
Sir Keir is calling on Johnson to reconsider, arguing that accelerating the change by nine days in England could save “hundreds of thousands” of working days.
It comes after the number of people being told to self-isolate reached another record high on Thursday, with almost 700,000 alerts sent to Covid app users in England and Wales, in what is being dubbed the “pingdemic”.
Speaking to broadcasters, Sir Keir, who is currently self-isolating after his son tested positive for Covid-19, said: “There is a huge difference between these dates. In that nine-day difference, there are hundreds of thousands of working days that will not be lost.
“There are businesses that won’t have the chaos they are facing at the moment.
“And of course lots of people who are planning to go on holiday will have the peace of mind that they can actually go on their holiday so they don’t have it interrupted by isolating.”
MPs in Westminster and business leaders earlier this month urged the prime minister 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.
The government has responded by rolling out exemptions for workers it deems to be employed in critical industries, such as those in the food sector, along with transport, waste collection and defence staff.
Daily negative test results can instead enable such workers who have been alerted by the NHS Covid-19 app or called by NHS Test and Trace as coronavirus contacts to continue working.
Downing Street said some 260 testing sites for critical workers are open, while 800 more are “in the process” of being set up for support workers in critical industries.
‘Welsh Labour has taken the lead’
A spokesman for the prime minister said on Thursday: “Following them, we will then establish the remaining 1,200 over the coming days.”
Sir Keir, however, was critical of the government’s insistence in keeping with its 16 August date for easing domestic quarantine measures for the rest of the population, arguing ministers had “never really explained the logic” behind their chosen date.
“Welsh Labour has obviously taken the lead on this and said in clear terms that if you’re double vaccinated, you don’t need to self-isolate from 7 August,” he added.
“And I’m challenging the government: we should do the same and allow some order to come back into our lives, allow some stability for holidays and for businesses.
“There is too much chaos, there isn’t a satisfactory answer from the government as to why they are clinging on to the date of 16 August – Welsh Labour is showing the way, we should follow them.”