Monday, November 29

PM braces for ‘interrogation’ amid summer Covid predictions

Boris Johnson is heading for a COVID showdown with MPs amid a backlash over a six-week wait for the ending of self-isolation rules.

Conservative MPs and business leaders have reacted furiously after Health Secretary Sajid Javid said children and fully vaccinated adults will have to follow current self-isolation rules until 16 August. This means they will have to stay at home for 10 days if they come into close contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid has said infections could rise to more than 100,000 cases a day in August, meaning millions of Britons could get COVID-19 over the summer.

With the latest figures from NHS Test and Trace suggesting that an average of about three close contacts are being identified for every confirmed case at present, such a spike could lead to substantial increases in the number of people who have to self-isolate.

The UK hospitality industry claims it faces “carnage” because its mostly young workforce is not fully vaccinated, with staff forced to isolate despite not working the same shift as colleagues testing positive.

Mr Johnson is also likely to be asked about a series of embarrassing attacks on him in recent weeks by his former Downing Street aide Dominic Cummings in a series of blogs and on twitter.

This week Mr Cummings wrote in a blog that ending all remaining coronavirus restrictions on 19 July would “obviously not” be the right decision and claimed Number 10 officials have “been told by scientific advisers not to do what they’re doing”.

As well as his weekly clash with Sir Keir Starmer at Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Johnson faces a two-hour interrogation by a high-powered committee of senior MPs that will be dominated by COVID.

The PM is appearing before the Liaison Committee – made up of the MPs who chair departmental select committees – for the third time this year, after tetchy sessions on his lockdown policy in January and March.

After a half-hour session on the COP26 environmental summit taking place later this year, Mr Johnson will be quizzed on COVID and the secondary impacts of the pandemic, such as the massive backlog on cancer treatment.

Besides questions on the row over self-isolation and quarantine rules, he is also likely to be quizzed on Matt Hancock’s humiliating exit from government and Dominic Cummings’ allegations about his handling of the pandemic.