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In U-turn, UK PM Boris Johnson to quarantine after COVID-19 contact

In U-turn, UK PM Boris Johnson to quarantine after COVID-19 contact

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson walks outside Downing Street in London, Britain, July 7, 2021. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will spend 10 days self-isolating after contact with a confirmed coronavirus case, his office said on Sunday (Jul 18), reversing an earlier announcement that he would not have to quarantine.

Johnson’s 10 Downing Street office said on Sunday that the prime minister and Treasury chief Rishi Sunak were both alerted overnight by England's test-and-trace phone app. He had a meeting on Friday with Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday. Javid, who has been fully vaccinated, says he is experiencing mild symptoms.

READ: UK PM Johnson avoids quarantine after health minister catches COVID-19

People who are notified through the app are supposed to self-isolate, although it is not a legal requirement. Contacts of positive cases usually are advised to self-isolate for 10 days.

But Johnson’s office initially said the prime minister and Sunak would instead take a daily coronavirus test as part of an alternative system being piloted in some workplaces, including government offices.

That plan was reversed less than three hours later after an outcry over apparent special treatment for politicians. Downing Street said Johnson would self-isolate at Chequers, the prime minister's country residence, and “will not be taking part in the testing pilot”. It said Sunak would self-isolate.

Britain is experiencing a rising number of COVID-19 cases, with hundreds of thousands of people being told to quarantine because they have been near someone who tested positive. Businesses including restaurants, car manufacturers and the London Underground say they are facing staff shortages because of the self-isolation rules.

READ: UK PM Boris Johnson pleads for caution as 'Freedom Day' arrives in England

Jonathan Ashworth, health spokesman for the opposition Labour Party, said earlier that many people would be angry that there is a special “VIP” lane to avoid self-isolation.

“Waking up this morning to hear that there is a special rule, an exclusive rule, for Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak, they will be saying that this looks like one rule for them and something else for the rest of us,” he told Sky News.

Johnson was seriously ill with the coronavirus in April 2020, spending three nights hospitalised in intensive care.

READ: Commentary: Should you need to show your vaccination status to enter a supermarket?

His spell in isolation comes as his government prepares to lift remaining lockdown measures on Monday. Nightclubs can reopen in England for the first time since March 2020, sports and entertainment venues can admit capacity crowds and face masks are no longer mandatory indoors.

But the government is urging people to be cautious, as cases surge because of the highly transmissible Delta variant of the virus first identified in India.

More than 54,000 new infections were confirmed on Saturday, the highest daily total since January. Hospitalisations and deaths are also rising, but remain far lower than at previous infection peaks thanks to vaccination. More than two-thirds of British adults have had both shots of a vaccine.

British officials are looking nervously at Israel and the Netherlands, both of which opened up society after vaccinating most of the population. Both countries have recently reimposed some restrictions after new infection surges.

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Source: AP/mi

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