Prime Minister Boris Johnson announces relaxation of quarantine rules for some as he leads press conference during his own self-isolation

Isolation rules will be relaxed for a “small number” of fully-vaccinated critical workers who are identified as close contacts of coronavirus cases, Boris Johnson has said after coming under sustained pressure over the “pingdemic”.

By Fiona Thompson
Monday, 19th July 2021, 10:22 pm

The Prime Minister today, Monday, July 19, calls to announce a more wide-reaching change to the rules to reduce the number of people in isolation, as he addressed the public from his own quarantine on so-called ‘Freedom Day’.

He described self-isolation as “one of the few shots we have got left in our locker”, on the day he scrapped most remaining legal restrictions and defended the timing, despite cases soaring.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson appears on a screen from Chequers, where he is self-isolating, while chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance and deputy chief medical officer for England Professor Jonathan Van Tam speak from Downing Street, during a coronavirus briefing. Picture by PA.

But he warned nightclubs and other venues with large crowds must make full vaccination a requirement of entry from the end of September.

Speaking from his Chequers retreat during a press conference with chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance and England’s deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van Tam from Downing Street, Mr Johnson said it was necessary to keep the isolation rules largely unchanged until August 16, when a testing regime will replace the requirement for fully-vaccinated contacts to isolate.

But he added: “In the meantime I want to assure you that we will protect crucial services, including the staffing of our hospitals and our care homes, the supplies of food, water electricity and medicines, the running of our trains, the protection of our borders, the defence of our realm, by making sure that a small number – a very small number – of named fully-vaccinated critical workers are able to leave their isolation solely for the the work that I have described.

“But for the vast majority of us, myself included, I’m afraid we do need to stick with this system for now.”

Some 17 hours after nightclubs reopened for the first time since March last year, Sir Patrick warned they had the potential to cause “super spreading events”.

Mr Johnson, who is self-isolating after contact with Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who has Covid, said despite having previously billed his lockdown-easing plan as “irreversible”, now said that “I don’t want to have to close nightclubs again as they have elsewhere” as he urged them to use the NHS Covid Pass for entry, despite it not currently being a legal requirement.

Mr Johnson said that “I certainly don’t want to see passports for pubs” but declined to rule out the possibility of introducing them.

Speaking in the Commons, vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi gave more details on the incoming exemption for self-isolation, which already covers frontline NHS staff and social care workers.

Mr Zahawi said the change would cover the police, air traffic controllers and train signallers, and others in “circumstances where there would be a serious risk of harm to public welfare if people in critical roles are unable to go to their workplace”.

The British Retail Consortium called for clarity on who would be exempt, and said retail workers and suppliers should be included for the “vital role” they have played in the pandemic.

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