‘Freedom Day’ in England overshadowed by Johnson’s isolation shift

Three of the top cabinet ministers – including Prime Minister Boris Johnson – stand alone on a day called “Freedom of England” on Monday, highlighting the growth of Covid-19 cases as the country pulls out its latest pandemic restrictions.

Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak were forced into a humiliating round of talks on Sunday after facing a backlash against plans to avoid quarantine by participating in a pilot test scheme.

The couple were contacted by the NHS Test and Trace program after holding meetings at number 10 on Friday with health secretary Sajid Javid, who announced that he is isolated after testing positive for coronavirus.

Within three hours of announcing their plans Sunday morning, Sunak and Johnson had completely changed direction following a wave of public outrage and condemnation from opposition politicians and business leaders.

The move came as retailers and food producers warned of food shortages and rising prices as acute staff shortages due to the isolation of workers began to put pressure on the food chain. supply.

Iceland, the group of supermarkets, said it had been forced to close stores due to an “acute” peak in staff absences. Restaurant operators said they were limiting the menus due to scarcity. Marks and Spencer said they should also limit opening hours if staff shortages increase.

Some 530,126 people were forced to isolate themselves last week after being contacted by authorities, creating large lack of work in factories, pubs, restaurants and public transport.

Johnson later claimed a video posted on social media that he had kept only “briefly” the idea of ​​participating in the pilot scheme, which has been underway for several weeks.

Labor leader Keir Starmer said the U-turn was the latest example of “chaos” at the heart of the government’s approach to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak have also been ruined for thinking that the rules we all follow are not valid for them,” he said.

“Parents, workers and businesses alike are wondering what on earth is going on in Downing Street.”

Those who participate in the “workplace contact test pilot” cannot socialize but can leave their home to do essential activities – including work – if their daily tests are negative and if they are not. develop symptoms.

The scheme applies to workers in 20 public sector organizations including personnel in Downing Street, Transport for London and the Border Force. The scheme is not likely to be launched to the general public before September.

Johnson, who will complete his self-isolation at Checkers, also called for “caution” and “caution” ahead of Monday’s reopening, though he insisted it was the right thing to do. as home numbers have grown to about 50,000 per day. “If we don’t do it now we have to ask, when will we ever do it?” he said.

Sunak is scheduled to announce the fall spending review parameters this week. The chancellor and the prime minister are also looking to agree on a new social assistance package – funded by higher taxes – ahead of the start of parliament’s summer recess.

The changes will see the reopening of venues such as discos and theaters and the end of limits on the number of people gathered at home, as well as an end to legally enforced social disengagement and disguise.

Neil Ferguson, director of the MRC Center for Global Infectious Disease Analysis at Imperial College London, said it was “almost certain” that the daily hospitalization rate would reach 1,000 with 100,000 cases per day in the coming weeks. . “The real question is whether we can double or even higher … 2,000 hospitalizations and 200,000 cases?” He told the BBC. Andrew Marr Show.

The government will exempt the dodges from self-isolation, even if they are contacted by Test and Trace, from August 16 – but business groups have lobbied for the date to be presented.

“Far from being Freedom Day being Freedom Day, it will be Disaster Day,” said Rod Mackenzie, director general of policy and public affairs for The Road Haulage Association.

He said the supply chain could face “chaos” with the transportation industry already short to 100,000 drivers due to other factors including Brexit. “The government needs to wake up. I cannot underestimate the seriousness of this situation, ”he said.

Clive Black, a food sales analyst at Shore Capital, said he expected food price inflation to range from 0-1 to 2-3 percent this year.

Covid-19 homes in England are now the third highest number in the world behind only Indonesia and Brazil.

Meanwhile the government will confirm on Monday that the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization has recommended Covid-19 for only a limited number of under-18s – where they have underlying health conditions or live with vulnerable adults.

Additional reports by Nathalie Thomas

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