Sajid Javid faced fury today as he revealed the requirement for the double-jabbed to self-isolate will not be dropped until August 16 – dooming millions more healthy people to putting their lives on hold.
The Health Secretary said the ‘protective wall’ thrown up by the vaccine drive meant that ministers can ‘look afresh’ at rules when people are ‘pinged’ for contact with an infected individual.
From the middle of next month people who have received two doses – with the second administered at least two weeks previously – can take PCR tests rather than self-isolating. Under-18s will also not be subject to the restrictions from the same date.
But the timetable means ‘scary’ numbers will be caught in the system after ‘Freedom Day’ on July 19, with furious businesses warning they are on the brink of disaster with ‘massive’ staff absence and customers bailout out of bookings. Others also raged that the government is failing to provide any clarity on the rules for getting staff back in offices.
Mr Javid told the Commons that he had looked at changing the isolation rules earlier, but was ‘more comfortable’ waiting until even more people are vaccinated.
The news came after Mr Javid admitted coronavirus cases could top 100,000 a day by the summer as the government pushes ahead with the unlocking. The Adam Smith Institute estimates that an increase on that scale would mean 4.6million people a week being asked to self-isolate by Test and Trace call handlers or the NHS app.
The PM was given a boost this morning as ‘Professor Lockdown’ Neil Ferguson said he is ‘optimistic’ the ‘gamble’ of releasing restrictions will work – although he cautioned that cases could hit 200,000 a day and they might need to be reimposed if vaccines are slightly less effective than hoped and deaths surge. Mr Javid said that by ‘Freedom Day’ he expects daily cases to reach 50,000 – nearly double the current level.
‘As we ease and go into the summer we expect them to rise significantly and they could go as high as 100,000 case numbers,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.