Sunday shows: Labour criticises “special treatment” for PM avoiding self-isolation

Update, 11am: There has been a U-turn since earlier this morning – Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak will now be self-isolating after all.

Trevor Phillips on Sunday

Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth criticised how the exclusive daily testing ‘pilot’ scheme is allowing Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak not to self-isolate, and criticised the lifting of public health restrictions on Monday, which could “snatch defeat from the jaws of victory”.

  • On Johnson not having to isolate: “Nobody understands how you can get access to this special treatment, this special VIP lane, where you don’t have to isolate yourself. If it is a pilot, why can’t other employers apply?”
  • He added: “If there is this system, other people should be able to apply for it. Other employers should be able to apply for it and ask for their workforce to be considered – that’s not the case at the moment. So it looks like for a lot of us it is indeed one rule for them at the top and another for the rest of us.”
  • On the policy in principle, where people could test every day and not need to isolate: “I think we should wait and see the SAGE final analysis of it.”
  • On rising cases: “We know that the virus is climbing again, very steeply. What you’ve got to do is put measures in place to break transmission chains. But instead of doing that, we’re about to have ‘freedom day’ tomorrow.”
  • On mask-wearing from Monday: “I would not get rid of the mandatory mask-wearing. People want to do the right thing and they’ll want to wear masks, but they want to be reassured that in return they are protected by others wearing masks.”
  • On other measures: “I would say allow people to continue to work from home if they want to. I would say let’s mobilise British manufacturing to build air filtration units to put in our schools and our premises. I would pay people sick pay and I would prepare for the future by investing in the NHS now.”
  • He added: “Our proposals are backed up by SAGE and indeed are backed up by a report from the Academy of Medical Sciences… The government’s proposal is to just go full-on into this, headlong into this freedom day, throwing off all restrictions. That risks increased pressure on the NHS.”
  • On new variants: “It also risks a new variant because when you have a pool of infections in society and increasing level of infection, and you have a partially vaccinated population, you’re putting a selection pressure on the virus to mutate and the big risk is we could snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, if you like, and be set back.”
  • On people being ‘pinged’ by the app: “The problem with the pinging isn’t the pinging in itself. That is a symptom of transmission in society and infection rates increasing, which is why we would put in place those containment measures.”
  • Asked whether he is against vaccinating children: “I’m not against vaccinating children. I think it needs to be looked at by the [joint committee on vaccination and immunisation].”
  • He added: “These are always clinical decisions. But if the JCVI are going to propose tomorrow that we should not vaccinate children, I hope they can fully explain their thinking and why they’ve taken a different decision to the US, for example.”

Sajid Javid tested positive for Covid earlier this week. Downing Street has said Johnson and Sunak will continue to be able to work, and not be required to isolate, despite the pair having been contacted by test and trace.

Robert Jenrick confirmed this morning that the Prime Minister and Chancellor were contacted by the system but said they will “take part in a daily testing pilot, which is available to a range of organisations, not just to politicians”.

“That means that they can conduct important government business, but they won’t be able to go out socialising or meet other friends and family,” he said. He said the pilot is also being used by Border Force and TfL.

He added: “This isn’t available, yet, to wider members of the public, and I appreciate the frustration that they might feel listening to this. They, like me or other members of the public, who are pinged will have to self-isolate in the usual way.”

The Housing Communities and Local Government Secretary said “we want to get to a point by mid-August where the double-vaccinated would not have to self-isolate in the same way”, but would wait until then to ensure more people are vaccinated.

He defended lifting restrictions on Monday, saying that “now does seem like the logical time”, with school holidays and good weather, but also warned that cases are rising and that “we haven’t yet reached the peak of the third wave”.

The Andrew Marr Show

Jonathan Ashworth again outlined what Labour would do differently tomorrow. He also said a cap on social care costs would be “better than nothing”, but Labour would like to see a “comprehensive package” to fix the crisis instead and wants any tax rise to be hypothecated.

  • On whether he would isolate if contacted by test and trace (as the Prime Minister has been): “Yes.” He said Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak deciding not to would lead people to think “yet again it’s one time for them and another for the rest of us”.
  • On whether Labour opposes reopening: “Opening up tomorrow is reckless… We would open with caution. We would maintain compulsory mask wearing.” He asked “why can’t people have the right to work from home?” and predicated cases would rise from tomorrow.
  • Pressed on whether Labour supports freedom day or not: “We don’t want ‘freedom day’ to be ‘free for all day’… We are in favour of the economy reopening but we would put in place a series of precautions to try and slow the growth and contain the growth of the virus, while the same time going further to get younger people to get the vaccine and we’d look again at vaccinations for adolescents.” He warned of another variant emerging.
  • On whether he would advise people not to go to work if their workplace is not properly ventilated: “Workplaces need health and safety requirements in places. That’s why we’re saying people should have the right to request home working. Germany, for example, offered grants to buildings.”
  • Accused of giving up on opposing the government on reopening: “We haven’t given up. We’re putting forward a series of proposals.” He reiterated that increased ventilation would be a “great way of supporting British manufacturing”.
  • On how to pay for social care: “If the government is going to put forward a tax rise for social care, I think they would need to guarantee the yield from that tax rise is hypothecated… We would need a comprehensive package to fix the social care crisis. The cap being talked about in the newspapers today does not fix social care. If you cap social care costs at £50,000, apparently this is what Boris Johnson wants, that helps around 50,000 people.” He said there are over a million people going without social care and 75,000 waiting for an assessment. “We need to drive up the quality of social care.”
  • On a cap on costs: “It’s better than nothing. It obviously doesn’t help the million people going without social care.”

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