A quarantine dodge by Boris Johnson would unleash a massive ‘do as I say, not as I do’ row

Politics

The timing could hardly be worse. A little more than 24 hours before what he used to call Freedom Day, Boris Johnson is under pressure to self-isolate.

The reason: a face-to-face meeting the prime minister held with Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who has now tested positive for COVID-19, in 10 Downing Street on Friday morning.

There will be some sympathy for Mr Javid. After all, he has had two jabs, both Oxford AstraZeneca, on 17 March and 16 May, and thankfully he only has “very mild” symptoms so far.

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Health Secretary has coronavirus

As for the prime minister, he was at Chequers when Mr Javid made his announcement at lunchtime on Saturday revealing that he “felt a bit groggy” on Friday evening and so had a lateral flow test.

While the PM will no doubt be angry and frustrated at being “pinged”, there are worse places to self-isolate than the 16th-century grace-and-favour mansion in the beautiful rolling countryside of the Chiltern Hills.

The PM, it has to be said, has a reputation as someone who thinks the rules that apply to everyone else don’t apply to him. But will he wriggle out of the isolation rules this time?

No doubt he would prefer to follow the example of Michael Gove, who sidestepped quarantine when he was “pinged” after attending the Chelsea-Manchester City Champions League final in Porto.

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Mr Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, was able to take part in a study, led by Public Health England and NHS Test and Trace, that examines whether daily testing can be used as an alternative to self-isolation.

People who have a lateral flow test each morning are allowed to attend their workplace as normal and do exercise, but are not allowed to socialise with others.

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But if the PM dodges self-isolation, at a time when 520,000 are isolating and there is growing public anger and resentment over the “pingdemic”, there will have been a furious outcry.

“If Boris doesn’t isolate and uses this ‘pilot scheme’, I will be encouraging my constituents to do the same,” one unnamed Tory MP was quoted as saying.

“There cannot be one rule for us and one for everyone else.”

Quite so. A quarantine dodge by the PM would unleash a massive “do as I say, not as I do” row. Remember the furore over Dominic Cummings lockdown-busting eyesight test last year? This would be 10 times worse.

Members of the public are already reported to be switching off their COVID-19 app “in droves”. A prime ministerial body swerve of isolation rules would potentially leave the policy in tatters.

The pingdemic is already largely discredited because of the way it is leaving businesses, public transport and the NHS desperately short of staff and prompting warnings of food shortages.

Where there may be less sympathy for Mr Javid, however, is over his decision to scrap isolation for the double jabbed, but not for another month, on 16 August.

Now Mr Javid has tested positive and the PM has been “pinged”, even if they brought forward the 16 August change, they would be accused of acting out of self-interest.

So the PM should grin and bear it, take one for the team and enjoy the Chilterns countryside. Freedom Day? Not for him surely!

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