SAWT BEIRUT INTERNATIONAL

| 24 July 2021, Saturday |

UK PM, Finance Minister exposed to COVID, confined to office work

After being discovered as a contact of someone who tested positive for the virus, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Finance Minister Rishi Sunak will be restricted to working from their offices and subjected to daily COVID-19 testing.

Sajid Javid, the health minister, announced on Saturday that he had tested positive for COVID-19.

“NHS Test and Trace has informed the Prime Minister and Chancellor as contacts of someone who has tested positive for COVID,” Johnson’s Downing Street office said in a statement on Sunday.

Typically, anyone identified as a contact by the tracing scheme would be required by law to self isolate for 10 days.

However, the government’s two most senior ministers will instead take part in a pilot study that allows them to continue working from their offices, and only self-isolate when not working.

“They will be participating in the daily contact testing pilot to allow them to continue to work from Downing Street,” Downing Street said. “They will be conducting only essential government business during this period.”

Britain will remove almost all its remaining coronavirus restrictions on Monday, even as the country faces a new wave of COVID-19 cases. Minister argue that the vaccination programme has largely broken the link between cases and mortality.

The surge in cases is causing problems for employers though, with more than half a million people told to self isolate in the week to July 7 because they had been exposed to the virus.

The pilot scheme that exempts Johnson and Sunak is currently running in 20 workplaces, including transport and immigration infrastructure, and eligibility is assessed on a case by case basis.

The study is designed to look at whether daily contact testing is an effective way of identifying new cases and whether it has any impact on transmission of the virus.

In mid-August, Britain plans to change its rules on self isolation to exempt those who have been double vaccinated from the requirement to stay at home for 10 days.