UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak were contacted by NHS Test and Trace team after Health Secretary Sajid Javid tested positive for coronavirus but would not have to enter self-isolation, Downing Street said on Sunday.
It was a question of whether the two officials will have to go into isolation following Javid's positive test, but Downing Street announced that they would rather take part in the daily contact testing pilot "to allow them to continue to work" from the office.
"They will be conducting only essential government business during this period," the statement reads.
New Health Secretary Tests Positive For COVID-19
Javid said on Twitter that he was feeling “a bit groggy” on Friday night, just hours after he was spotted exiting 10 Downing Street, presumably after a lengthy meeting with the prime minister and the chancellor. The secretary decided to take a rapid lateral flow test the next morning, and the result was positive. He stated that his symptoms were very “mild” following two COVID-19 jabs he had previously received and immediately went into isolation along with his family.
My positive result has now been confirmed by PCR test, so I will continue to isolate and work from home.— Sajid Javid (@sajidjavid) July 17, 2021
Here’s a handy reminder of which test you may need and when: pic.twitter.com/cX7Ypye3X6
The PCR tests later confirmed Javid’s coronavirus infection, sparking questions about whether Johnson, Sunak and other senior ministers now had to isolate as instructed by the NHS Test and Trace app. The tracing programme, designed to reduce the spread of the virus, has triggered a kind of “pingdemic” in the UK, according to the British media, threatening food and labour shortages over requirement to isolate for anyone who came in close contact with an infected person in the last 48 hours. The Evening Standard said that the NHS app sent a record 520,194 alerts last week.
Who Is Going to Get ‘Pinged’ Now?
According to the guidelines, Johnson, Sunak and a strain of Whitehall officials were expected to get “pinged” by the app. Javid visited the Aashna House care home in south London on Tuesday and the House of Commons chamber on Wednesday. The care home announced on Saturday that following the secretary’s visit, no one had tested positive for COVID in the facility.
It’s not clear at what point the official got infected with the virus and thus who from his circle of colleagues remains at a higher risk.
One government source told The Telegraph: “I don’t see how half the Cabinet doesn’t end up in isolation by the end of the week.”
Boris Johnson recovered from COVID-19 last spring and has received two doses of AstraZeneca vaccine this year. The Telegraph earlier noted that there was a chance that the prime minister may not need to stay at home for a lengthy 10-day period cancelling all his public engagements if he took part in a potential pilot scheme. The programme would allow him and other senior officials to take daily COVID tests rather than self-isolate – something Cabinet Minister Michael Gove did last month. However, according to the paper, it was up to Test and Trace to decide who was eligible for the scheme.