Keir Starmer demands 7 August end to self-isolation ‘pingdemic’

Labour wants government to end ‘chaos’ and bring date forward

Adam Forrest
Friday 30 July 2021 19:53
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Related video: Keir Starmer says he supports vaccine passports for sports events

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has called on Boris Johnson’s government to match Wales by bringing forward the date on which fully-vaccinated people in England can avoid isolation.

Wales’s Labour first minister Mark Drakeford has confirmed 7 August as the day when double-jabbed adults can escape isolation if they come into contact with a Covid case.

Scotland is also expected to remove the need for fully-vaccinated people to isolate on 9 August, but Mr Johnson has insisted England remained “nailed on” to wait until 16 August.

Sir Keir said bringing forward by nine days the exemption for the fully vaccinated from having to self-isolate would “allow some order to come back into our lives”.

Speaking to broadcasters on Friday, the opposition leader said: “We have got to find a way forward here. We’re seeing a real summer of chaos, you can see the impact it is having on so many businesses, so many sectors.”

He added: “The government has never really explained the logic of its 16 August date on isolating.”

Asked why Labour was not calling for an immediate change, Sir Keir said: “August 7 is only a week tomorrow and it takes a little bit of change to be put into the system.”

Wales’s change will come into effect on the same day the country is expected to move to alert level zero, when most coronavirus restrictions will be lifted.

Anyone who tests positive for Covid or has symptoms must continue to isolate for 10 days regardless of their vaccination status, the Welsh government has said. It will also advise those identified as a contact of a positive case to have a PCR test on day two and day eight, whether they are fully vaccinated or not.

Mr Drakeford said: “We know a full course of the vaccine offers people protection against the virus and they are far less likely to contract it when they are identified as close contacts. This means they no longer need to self-isolate for 10 days.”

Backbench Tory MPs and business leaders earlier this month urged Mr Johnson to bring forward the date to ease isolation restrictions after a rise in Covid cases led to a surge in people being “pinged” by the app, which caused disruption to several sectors.

Data published on Thursday showed the number of people being told to self-isolate reached another record, with almost 700,000 alerts sent to Covid app users in England and Wales.

Some frontline workers are exempt from isolation, including those in prisons, waste collection, defence, the food industry, transport, Border Force and police and fire services.

But Labour accused the government of taking a “shambolic” approach after it emerged that just 260 testing centres of the 2,000 planned are currently open.

“Hundreds of testing centres opening weeks after they’re needed typifies the government’s shambolic approach to the pandemic,” said Justin Madders, the shadow health minister.

Elsewhere, the UK government also faced demands to recall parliament after concerns were raised that Covid vaccine passports had been introduced by “stealth” via the NHS app.

On the NHS app, a tweak to the wording on the NHS Covid Pass section means it now includes a “domestic” section, which states: “You may need to show your NHS Covid Pass at places that have chosen to use the service.”

The government has said it wants to make vaccine passports mandatory for some settings – such as nightclubs – and crowded events from the autumn.

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