The Prime Minister has been allowed to dodge self-isolation rules to work from Downing Street – despite holding a long meeting with Sajid Javid before he tested positive.
Boris Johnson was contact-traced by the NHS and told to isolate after the Health Secretary’s positive Covid test just days ahead of Monday’s ‘Freedom Day’ unlocking.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak was also contact-traced and told to self-isolate.
But neither the PM or the Chancellor will be following the orders – as No 10 says they were selected at random to be allowed to avoid isolation as part of a special daily workplace contact testing pilot.
The pilot is underway to explore whether the 10-day self-isolation period could be shortened safely as the UK eases restrictions and encourages people back to workplaces.
But it comes after official figures this week showed a whopping 500,000 Brits were ‘pinged’ to isolate by the NHS Covid app in the past week.
The saga – dubbed the ‘pingdemic’ – has seen workplaces struggle with absent workers, caused chaos at short-staffed airports, and ruined holidays.
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People alerted by the app are not legally required to isolate – while those contact-traced by the NHS are.
But many millions, including Kate Middleton – who stood up and left Wimbledon after she ‘pinged’ while watching the tennis in the royal box – have opted to isolate anyway.
However it emerged today that the PM and Chancellor both have a special exemption from the NHS contact-tracing rules.
The pair were said to have been randomly selected to be a part of a workplace daily contact testing pilot at Downing Street.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth blasted their special exemption and questioned how Brits who couldn’t get in the ‘VIP lane’ for the testing pilot would react.
“There will be parents across the country who have struggled this year when their children have been sent home because they were in a bubble and had to self-isolate,” he told Sky News.
“There will be workers across the country that have to isolate because they’ve been pinged, including in public services, including the NHS.
“For many of them, 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.”
A No10 spokesman said: “They will be conducting only essential government business during this period.”
It has emerged Downing Street is part of a daily workplace testing pilots currently cover select staff at 20 organisations from private and public sectors, including Network Rail, Transport for London (TFL), Heathrow Airport and Border Force.
It is running in conjunction with a general daily contact testing study open to anyone identified as a close contact of a positive case.
When the general contact testing study was launched back in May, the government estimated around 40,000 people around England would be taking part in the pilot.
The government said at the time that if it proved a success, it could lead to a reduction in the period of self-isolation from 10 days.
Participating individuals must still self-isolate when not at work- meaning they can’t go out and socialise during the period after they have come into contact with an infected person.
Instead, the contacts are sent a week’s worth of lateral flow tests and are required to test themselves each morning for seven days.
People in the pilot who test negative and develop no symptoms are exempt from the legal duty to self-isolate that day and can leave their home to carry out ‘essential activity’ – such as work.
Currently, the isolation period after being contact traced by the NHS or by the Covid app is 10 days.
Mr Johnson’s participation in the separate workplace pilot means he will not be confined to home on so-called “freedom day” on Monday when most statutory lockdown restrictions end in England.
However, the disclosure that the Prime Minister and Chancellor have avoided the requirement to quarantine is likely to anger thousands of people and businesses being hammered by staff shortage due to Covid app ‘pings.’
Businesses have been pressing for the app to be overhauled and made less sensitive amid concerns that staff shortages mean they cannot operate effectively.
London Underground became the latest to succumb on Saturday when the Metropolitan Line was forced to close because of a lack of control room staff.
Earlier in the week, Heathrow Airport was hit by a staff shortage leading to huge queues of passengers forming early in the morning until back-up workers were found.
While most Covid restrictions lift in England on Monday. the rules on self-isolating for contacts of people who test positive are not eased until August 16.
From that point onward, people who are double-jabbed will be able to take tests rather than quarantine at home.
However the government has faced pressure to bring forward the date as rocketing Delta case numbers lead to a surge in contact-tracing.
BBC analysis suggested the delay to ending isolation for fully vaccinated people could see 4.5million people pinged between early July and mid-August.