Test & Trace WON’T be scrapped until at least next year despite fears millions of healthy people could be doomed to self-isolate as cases rise – and exemptions for doubled-jabbed and children are only ‘likely’ this summer
- Boris Johnson confirmed yesterday that ‘Freedom Day’ goes ahead on Monday
- Government documents show Test & Trace will stay ‘through autumn and winter’
- Fears that millions of healthy people will be ‘pinged’ and doomed to house arrest
The Test, Trace & Isolate system is set to stay until at least next year despite alarm over rising numbers of healthy people being doomed to house arrest.
Details of the ‘Freedom Day’ plans issued by the government overnight make clear that the regime will be ‘necessary through the autumn and winter’.
The documents also say exemptions from isolation for the double-jabbed and children are only ‘likely to come into effect later in the summer’, despite Sajid Javid previously specifying August 16.
The timetable will fuel concerns about whether England is really heading back towards normality after the July 19 unlocking.
Ministers have warned that daily cases could top 100,000 by next month – raising the prospect that millions of close contacts of the infected will be ‘pinged’ and ordered to isolate for up to 10 days.
The hospitality industry has already been complaining that the level of staff absence risks making it impossible for some businesses to operate.
Boris Johnson last night pulled the trigger on the legal unlocking, but warned Covid curbs could return in September if new freedoms are abused.
Mr Johnson called for continued mask-wearing in busy indoor settings such as trains, supermarkets and cinemas. And he urged firms not to order staff back to their desks despite the lifting of the formal ‘work from home guidance’.
The Prime Minister also dropped his claim that the unlocking would be ‘irreversible’. Asked whether restrictions could return, he said he hoped they would not but added: ‘We must rule nothing out.’
Boris Johnson last night pulled the trigger on the legal unlocking, but warned Covid curbs could return in September if new freedoms are abused
Details of the ‘Freedom Day’ plans issued by the government overnight make clear that the Test, Trace & Isolate regime will be ‘necessary through the autumn and winter’
Health Secretary Sajid Javid has announced that from August 16 fully-vaccinated individuals should be let off the quarantine requirement.
Those aged under 18 are also set to benefit from the change from the same date.
Fellow minister Nadhim Zahawi said at the weekend that the government is also considering replacing the isolation rule with daily testing more widely.
Meanwhile, officials are working on making the NHS app less sensitive so that fewer people are caught by the isolation order.
But after Mr Johnson struck a far more cautious tone last night, the guidance suggested that the exemptions are not a definite commitment.
‘The Government intends to exempt people who have been fully vaccinated from the requirement to self-isolate if they are a contact of a positive case, with a similar exemption for under 18s.
‘Anyone who tests positive will still need to self-isolate regardless of their vaccination status. Further details will be published in due course and the changes are likely to come into effect later in the summer.’
The documents also insisted Test & Trace will stay in place for many months to come.
‘Test, Trace and Isolate has an important ongoing role in managing the virus and reduces the risk of potentially dangerous variants spreading,’ the guidance said.
‘The Government expects the Test, Trace and Isolate system will remain necessary through the autumn and winter.’
The coronavirus restrictions which will be removed from July 19
The legal enforcement rules and financial support for isolation will also be kept in place.
‘Until at least the end of September, self-isolation enforcement and support will otherwise continue as it is now,’ the government said.
Speaking at the Downing Street briefing last night, Mr Johnson said: ‘I cannot say this powerfully or emphatically enough – this pandemic is not over. This disease coronavirus continues to carry risks for you and for your family. We cannot simply revert instantly from Monday, July 19, to life as it was before Covid.’
Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said families should still ‘avoid unnecessary meetings’ with other households with normal life returning only ‘very slowly’.
Mark Harper, chairman of the Covid Recovery Group of Tory MPs, said even the limited taste of freedom could prove short-lived.
‘Enjoy summer if you can,’ he said. ‘Winter is coming – and I fear that Covid restrictions will return.’