- Boris Johnson was exposed to COVID-19 in a meeting with Health Secretary Sajid Javid.
- NHS policy means that he should isolate for 10 days – but Johnson was part of a pilot study, meaning he can continue to work.
- National outrage has meant he has had to perform a sharp U-Turn and remove himself from the pilot study
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
In a speedy U-turn in response to public backlash, the British Prime Minister will be isolating after being exposed to COVID-19.
On Friday, July 16th, Johnson had an in-person meeting with Sajid Javid, the newly-appointed UK health secretary.
The following day, Javid took to Twitter to announce that he had tested positive for COVID-19.
On the morning of 18 July, Johnson was then “pinged” by the NHS COVID-19 app – a contact tracing app used to identify those exposed to Covid and therefore must isolate to stop the spread.
In contrast to common practice, 10 Downing Street announced that the Prime Minister and Rishi Sunak – Chancellor of the Exchequer – would not be isolating, and would instead be participating in a pilot scheme and going into his office to continue “essential Government business.”
However, mass public backlash caused this announcement to be reversed in less than two hours.
Sunak took to Twitter to announce that “I recognise that even the sense that the rules aren’t the same for everyone is wrong. To that end I’ll be self isolating as normal and not taking part in the pilot.”
-Rishi Sunak (@RishiSunak) July 18, 2021
Later in the day, Boris Johnson filmed a video of himself stating that he will be self-isolating until Monday, July 26.
He said that it was “briefly” considered he would avoid Covid isolation regulations, but stated that it would be “far more important that everybody sticks to the same rules.”
-Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) July 18, 2021
When first announced on Saturday morning, Number 10 stated that the two politicians would be participating in a pilot study to take daily COVID-19 tests rather than self isolate.
The announcement caused a significant fury on social media, with the topic of self-isolation already a sore subject with the British public as more than 500,000 people told to isolate by NHS Test and Trace in the last week alone.
In reaction to the news, #oneruleforthem was trending on Twitter, with people furious that the Prime Minister can bypass regulations that impact the public.
One teacher tweeted that her school class had to miss 10 days of school due to isolation following a COVID exposure.
Several workplaces – including 10 Downing Street – are reportedly participating in this pilot to see how the UK workforce can operate whilst the virus continues to circulate. However, the politicians will not be doing so.
A spokesperson for the Prime Minister told Insider: “The Prime Minister has been contacted by NHS Test and Trace to say he is a contact of someone with Covid.
“He was at Chequers when contacted by Test and Trace and will remain there to isolate. He will not be taking part in the testing pilot.
“He will continue to conduct meetings with ministers remotely. The Chancellor has also been contacted and will also isolate as required and will not be taking part in the pilot.”
This is the latest case in a string of COVID-related controversies involving the most senior of the UK Government.
On June 26, then-Health Secretary Matt Hancock stepped down from his position after leaked footage showed him kissing his aide in his office whilst Covid restrictions banned such intimate contact.
Last year, the senior advisor to Boris Johnson – Dominic Cummings – sparked national fury when it was revealed that he drove over 200 miles (322km) in a national lockdown whilst being positive for COVID-19.