Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak were forced into a humiliating U-turn on Sunday after facing backlash over plans to avoid quarantine by participating in a pilot test program.
The couple were contacted by the NHS Test and Trace program after they held meetings inside Number 10 on Friday with Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who announced he was self-isolating after testing positive for the coronavirus.
Less than three hours after announcing their plans on Sunday morning, Sunak and Johnson had completely changed leadership following a wave of public outrage and condemnation from opposition politicians and government leaders. business.
The move came as retailers and food producers warned of food shortages and price increases as acute staff shortages due to worker isolation begin to put pressure on the supply chain. .
Iceland, the supermarket group, said it was forced to close stores due to a “strong” peak in staff absences. Restaurant owners said they were limiting menus due to shortages. Marks and Spencer said it should also limit hours of operation if staff shortages increase.
Some 530,126 people were forced into self-isolation last week after being contacted by authorities, creating severe labor shortages in factories, pubs, restaurants and public transport.
Johnson later claimed in a video posted on social networks that he had only “briefly” considered the idea of participating in the pilot project, which has been going on for several weeks.
Keir Starmer, the Labor leader, said the U-turn was the latest example of ‘chaos’ at the heart of the government’s approach to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak were arrested again for thinking that the rules we all follow did not apply to them,” he said.
“Parents, workers and businesses will be wondering what is going on in Downing Street. “
People participating in the “Workplace Contact Test Pilot” cannot socialize, but they can leave their homes to perform essential activities – including work – if their daily tests are negative and they do not develop any. symptom.
The scheme applies to workers in 20 public sector organizations, including staff at Downing Street, Transport for London and the Border Force. The device is not expected to be deployed to the general public until September at the earliest.
Johnson, who will complete his isolation at Checkers, also called for “caution” and “caution” ahead of Monday’s reopening, although he insisted it was the right thing to do as the number of cases has climbed to around 50,000 per day. “If we don’t do it now, we have to ask, when will we ever do it?” ” he said.
Sunak is expected to announce the parameters for the fall spending review this week. The Chancellor and the Prime Minister are also trying to agree on a new social protection program – funded by higher taxes – before Parliament’s summer recess begins.
The changes will see the reopening of places such as nightclubs and theaters and the end of limits on the number of people meeting indoors, as well as an end to legally enforced social distancing and mask wearing.
Neil Ferguson, director of the MRC Center for Global Infectious Disease Analysis at Imperial College London, said it was “almost certain” that the daily hospitalization rate would reach 1,000 with 100,000 cases per day in the weeks to come. “The real question is whether we can double that or even more. . . 2,000 hospitalizations and 200,000 cases? he told the BBC Spectacle d’Andrew Marr.
The government is expected to exempt double bites from self-isolation, even if contacted by Test and Trace, from August 16 – but business groups have been pushing for that date to be brought forward.
“Far from the day of freedom being the day of freedom, it will be a day of disaster,” said Rod Mackenzie, general manager of policy and public affairs at the Road Haulage Association.
He said the supply chain could face “chaos” with the transport industry already short of 100,000 drivers due to other factors, including Brexit. “The government needs to realize this. I cannot minimize the gravity of this situation, ”he said.
Clive Black, food distribution analyst at Shore Capital, said he expected food price inflation to drop from 0-1% to 2-3% this year.
England’s Covid-19 cases are now the third highest number in the world behind Indonesia and Brazil.
Meanwhile, the government will confirm on Monday that the Joint Committee on Immunization and Immunization has advised Covid-19 vaccines for a limited number under the age of 18 – when they have underlying health conditions or are living with vulnerable adults.
Additional reporting by Nathalie Thomas