Westminster relaxation of isolation rules branded ‘high-risk free for all’

THE UK Government has been urged to show caution on its relaxation of coronavirus restrictions following an announcement about further easing on self-isolation rules.

Sajid Javid, the new UK Health Secretary, announced to MPs this afternoon that school children would no longer have to self-isolate if they were in contact with someone who had tested positive for Covid, nor adults if they have had two doses of vaccine.

The changes are planned to come in to force on August 16 in England.

READ MORE: Jason Leitch explains why Scotland tops WHO virus hotspot list

Mr Javid, who replaced Matt Hancock last month, said the country had built a “wall of defence” against the virus thanks to the vaccination rollout.

He explained: “This pandemic is far from over and we will continue to proceed with caution.

“But we’re increasingly confident that our plan is working and that we can soon begin a new chapter based on the foundations of personal responsibility and common sense rather than the blunt instrument of rules and regulations.”

On the self-isolation changes for adults, he told MPs: “ From 16 August when even more people will have the protection of both doses, and when modelling suggests the risks from the virus will be even lower, anyone who’s a close contact of a positive case will no longer have to self-isolate if they have been fully vaccinated.

“If someone gets their second dose just before or just after 16 August, they’ll need to wait two weeks, after which their second jab can take effect and give them these new freedoms.”

READ MORE: Boris Johnson’s ‘Freedom Day’ plans criticised by Ian Blackford

He said those under the age of 18 would also not have to self-isolate, adding: “Instead they’ll be given advice about whether they should get tested, dependent on their age and will need to self-isolate only if they test positive.”

However Labour said the changes, which come after Boris Johnson announced further easing of rules last night, were becoming a “high-risk free-for-all”.

Jonathan Ashworth, the party’s shadow health secretary, said: “Let’s have a u-turn on mask-wearing. Yes, let’s have freedom, but not a high risk free for all.

“Keep masks for now, fix sick pay, and let’s unlock in a safe and sustainable way.”

He pointed to cases of the Delta variant spreading elsewhere, despite people having two vaccines, explaining: “ We know from outbreaks in Israel and research that the Delta variant can be transmitted through fully vaccinated people, even if they don’t get sick.

“Data in the last 24 hours from the Ministry of Health from Israel points to the Pfizer vaccine being just 64% effective at stopping symptomatic and asymptomatic transmission of the Delta variant, so sadly being double-jabbed means you are still a risk to others, and yet he is releasing controls on transmissions at the time when infections are rising.”

Mr Ashwroth said the “biggest barrier” to self-isolation was a “lack of financial incentive to stay home” and urged Mr Javid to fix the system for sick pay.

He added: “If we are going to live with this virus the days of people soldiering on when unwell are over.

“Sick pay is vital for infection control. Will he now please fix it?”

HeraldScotland: SNP MP Martyn Day

Martyn Day, the SNP’s health spokesman asked Mr Javid how many deaths the UK Government would deem “acceptable” given it has so far not released its modelling on the number of deaths anticipated as a result of the latest lockdown easing.

Mr Day said: “Given this government has repeatedly got things wrong on COVID, from the timing of lockdown, the lack of border controls which allowed the Delta variant into the UK, the delay on red listing of India, and now we have cases of the Delta variant surging.

“When millions of people are still to be fully vaccinated, and over a million are already living with long- Covid, many will be concerned that the UK government is actively trying to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. What confidence can the public have that the latest round of measures, abandoning all restrictions, is not another reckless gamble in the face of increasing transmission?”

Mr Javid replied: “The answer is the vaccine. The vaccine is working, we have more people vaccinated than any other large country in the world thanks to the work of the NHS and the volunteers and everyone else involved including, of course, in Scotland, too.

“That has weakened the link between cases, hospitalisation and deaths, and these decisions have been informed by the science, contrary to what [Mr Day] said, they’ve been informed by the science, the science is working.”

The Herald Scotland

The Herald Scotland

The Herald is a Scottish broadsheet newspaper founded in 1783. The Herald is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. The title was simplified from The Glasgow Herald in 1992