Boris Johnson today insisted that people must self-isolate when ‘pinged’ as he took the last PMQs of term from house arrest.
The premier dodged jibes from Keir Starmer over his brief attempt to evade the quarantine edict using a testing scheme, saying the rules are still a ‘vital tool’ to control Covid.
And in a plea for the public to be patient amid rising alarm at the ‘pingdemic’, Mr Johnson stressed that the government was determined to ‘switch’ to a system of testing when people have been in contact with positive cases.
The comments came after a minister suggested that people should self-isolate even if they are notified by the app the night before their wedding.
Asked what her stance would be during a round of interviews, Home Office minister Victoria Atkins told LBC: ‘Oh gosh, the guidance is ‘please, you must stay at home’.
‘That is a terribly, terribly difficult scenario.’
Boris Johnson (left) dodged jibes from Keir Starmer (right) over his brief attempt to evade the quarantine edict using a testing scheme, saying the rules are still a ‘vital tool’ to control Covid
Today’s PMQs, the last before the summer recess, was the first since the pandemic erupted where there are no formal social distancing measures
Although masks are now voluntary, Speaker Lindsay Hoyle has made clear that he expects MPs to wear them for the final days of term
Home Office minister Victoria Atkins suggested that people should self-isolate even if they are notified by the app the night before their wedding
Today’s PMQs, the last before the summer recess, was the first since the pandemic erupted where there are no formal social distancing measures.
But although masks are now voluntary, Speaker Lindsay Hoyle has made clear that he expects MPs to wear them for the final days of term.
And although the limits on numbers in the chamber have been lifted there was still a sparse attendance today compared to the usually packed and rowdy pre-pandemic sessions.
During brutal clashes that were at times disrupted by sound issues for the PM at his country retreat, Sir Keir grilled him over confusion yesterday when ministers suggested the app’s notifications could be ignored if that was the ‘best thing’ for them.
‘Can I wish the Prime Minister, ”the Chequers One”, well in his isolation,’ Sir Keir said.
‘With half a million people self-isolating, I think we were all a bit surprised that the Prime Minister, the Chancellor and the Cabinet Office minister were all randomly chosen for a get-out-of-isolation-free card.
‘But it’s good that the Prime Minister finally recused himself, even if it took a public outcry, for the Communities Secretary to be humiliated on live TV and a trip to a country estate.
‘If somebody’s pinged by the NHS app, as millions will be over coming weeks, should they isolate yes or no?’
Mr Johnson replied: ‘I think that everybody understands the inconvenience of being pinged, as he rightly says here I am, I wish I was with you in the Commons chamber today. I apologise to everybody in business up and down the land in all kinds of services, public sector or otherwise who are experiencing inconvenience.
‘We will be switching, as the House knows, to a system based on contact testing rather than contact isolation, but until then I just must remind everybody that isolation is a vital tool of our defence against the disease.’
There are an estimated 1.7million people in isolation as cases rise with the Delta variant running riot – although deaths remain at a low level thanks to vaccines.
The British Meat Processors Association has warned that production lines have started to fail due to the number of workers self-isolating over coronavirus contacts.
Chief executive Nick Allen said the industry cannot rely on exemptions announced by Boris Johnson because it has been made clear that very few people will benefit from the plan.
Asked if the Government has made the situation clearer, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘No not really. There’s an air of despondency creeping through the industry really. Until now we’ve managed to keep the food supply chain running but there’s a sense of we’re starting to fail on that front.
Although the limits on numbers in the chamber have been lifted there was still a sparse attendance today compared to the usually packed and rowdy pre-pandemic sessions
‘Morale isn’t helped by the confusion that comes from these confusing messages from Government.’
On whether production lines are stalling, he said: ‘They are. It’s happening already. We’re starting to see that at retail level and in restaurants – everyone is struggling to get things out really.’
He said the industry is not clear who is covered by the exemption for a small number of double-jabbed critical workers.
‘It was made very clear to us late yesterday that this exemption will be for very, very few people. They described it as setting the bar very, very high and we’re certainly not counting on that,’ he said.