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Sajid Javid self-isolating after testing positive for Covid

Sajid Javid, Britain’s new health secretary, said on Saturday that he had tested positive for coronavirus and was experiencing mild symptoms as the UK prepares to end the last of its lockdown restrictions.

Javid said he would work from home after a PCR test confirmed he had coronavirus. “I was feeling a bit groggy last night . . . so I’m now self-isolating at home with my family,” he said.

The news comes 48 hours before England is set to throw off the last remaining Covid restrictions, despite third highest number of cases of any country in the world, a move that has raised concerns among some leading scientists.

Javid said he was grateful that he had had two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine and therefore his symptoms were mild.

“If you haven’t had your jabs please go out there and get them as soon as you can,” he said in a video clip on Twitter.

“If everyone plays their part you’re not only protecting yourself and your loved ones but you’re also safeguarding the NHS and helping protect our way of life.”

Javid had a meeting on Friday with Boris Johnson, the prime minister, who is now likely to get “pinged” by the NHS Covid app advising him to self-isolate to prevent spread of Covid if he has it on his smartphone.

Monday will be so-called “Freedom Day” in England when the last restrictions are stripped away, marking the end of the third coronavirus lockdown. The changes will mean the reopening of nightclubs and theatres and an end to legally enforced social distancing and mask wearing — although the latter will still be advised in crowded indoor venues.

The new health secretary has been an enthusiastic supporter of reopening the economy, using his first Commons speech in the role to insist that the changes were irreversible. “No date we choose comes with zero-risk for Covid,” he said at the time. “We cannot eliminate it, instead we have to learn to live with it.”

Lucy Frazer, the government’s solicitor general, said on Friday it was possible that restrictions could be reimposed if deaths and hospitalisations reached an “unacceptable” level again.

Javid on Tuesday visited a care home for the elderly, Aashna House, in London.

On Friday, as daily case numbers in the UK rose to more than 50,000, global health experts condemned Johnson’s lifting of most Covid-19 legal restrictions in England on Monday as “a threat to the world”.

The UK has the third-highest number of cases in the world — only Indonesia and Brazil have more — and some scientists fear it could become a breeding ground for new Covid variants.

As the UK reported 51,870 daily cases — the highest figure since January 15 — scientists at an “emergency international summit” urged the Johnson government to “urgently reconsider its proposed actions”.

Munira Wilson, Lib Dem health spokesperson, said the news about Javid showed that no one was safe from Covid-19.

“The government needs to rethink its reckless plans for Monday,” she said.

“By easing all restrictions with cases surging, they are experimenting with people’s lives. Right now, they are pursuing a strategy of survival of the fittest, where the young and clinically vulnerable will be left defenceless.”

Jeremy Hunt, the chair of Commons health select committee, warned there was a danger that England might have to go back into lockdown in the autumn if hospitalisation rates rose too quickly during the summer.

In a sign of the government’s jitters, ministers tweaked the “traffic light” system for foreign travel so that people returning from France would still have to self-isolate for 10 days even if they have had two Covid jabs.

 


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