Starmer Demands August 7 End to England’s Self-Isolation Rule After Wales Move

July 30, 2021 Updated: July 30, 2021

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has challenged the Government to match Wales by bringing forward the date on which fully vaccinated people in England can avoid isolation.

Wales’s Labour First Minister Mark Drakeford has confirmed August 7 as the day when double-jabbed adults can escape isolation if they come into contact with a positive coronavirus case.

Scotland is also expected to remove the need for fully vaccinated people to isolate on August 9, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson has insisted England is “nailed on” to make the same move from August 16.

Sir Keir, however, has questioned why England should have a later timeline, saying this risks creating more pain for families and businesses.

“This has been a summer of chaos for British businesses and British families,” Sir Keir said in a statement.

“The Tory government has never been able to explain the logic of their self-isolation rules and has just repeated the same mistakes over and over again.

“While the British public have been trying to do the right thing, we saw this government’s instincts when Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak tried to avoid the isolation millions have had to endure.

“The Government’s slapdash approach to this global pandemic is crippling our economy and creating real problems for businesses and families alike. Welsh Labour has shown what can be done and it’s time for the Tories to do the same.”

Daily confirmed cases
Infographic of daily confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the UK, by July 29, 2021. (Infographic PA Graphics/PA)

Wales’s change will come into effect on the same day the country is expected to move to alert level zero—when most coronavirus restrictions will be lifted.

Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 or has symptoms must continue to isolate for 10 days regardless of their vaccination status, the Welsh Government has said.

It will also advise those identified as a contact of a positive case to have a PCR test on day two and day eight, whether they are fully vaccinated or not.

MPs in Westminster and business leaders earlier this month urged Johnson to bring forward the date to ease isolation restrictions after a rise in COVID-19 cases led to a surge in people being “pinged” by the app, which caused disruption to several sectors.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid went on to defend the August 16 date by insisting it was chosen to allow more people to be fully vaccinated—and ultimately reduce the risk of severe illness.

Elsewhere, the UK Government also faced demands to recall Parliament amid concern COVID-19 vaccine passports had been introduced by “stealth” via the NHS app.

North West Wales Slate Landscape gets heritage status
Mark Drakeford, First Minister of Wales at the National Slate Museum, Llanberis, Gwynedd, Wales, on July 28, 2021. (Peter Byrne/PA)

Confirming the rule change for Wales, Drakeford said: “Self-isolation on symptoms or a positive test result continues to be a powerful measure in helping to break the chains of transmission and stop the spread of the virus.

“It is important we retain this, even for people who have been fully vaccinated.

“But we know a full course of the vaccine offers people protection against the virus and they are far less likely to contract it when they are identified as close contacts.

“This means they no longer need to self-isolate for 10 days.”

Data published on Thursday showed the number of people being told to self-isolate reached another record, with almost 700,000 alerts sent to COVID-19 app users in England and Wales.

The so-called “pingdemic” led to 689,313 alerts being sent to users of the NHS COVID-19 app last week telling them they had been in close contact with someone who had tested positive for coronavirus.

Some frontline workers are exempt from isolation, including those in prisons, waste collection, defence, the food industry, transport, Border Force, and police and fire services.

Daily negative test results enable those eligible workers who have been alerted by the NHS COVID-19 app or called by NHS Test and Trace as coronavirus contacts to continue working.

Elsewhere, figures from Public Health England estimated COVID-19 vaccines have prevented an estimated 22 million infections and 60,000 deaths in England.

The data also suggested jabs are estimated to have directly averted more than 52,600 hospital admissions.

The figures were published as England’s deputy chief medical officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, said he hoped the worst of the pandemic was over in the UK, while warning there could be “one or two bumpy periods” ahead.

On the NHS app, a tweak to the wording on the NHS COVID Pass section has raised concerns.

It now includes a “domestic” section, which states: “You may need to show your NHS COVID Pass at places that have chosen to use the service.”

The government has said it wants to make vaccine passports mandatory for some settings—such as nightclubs—and crowded events from the autumn.

By Richard Wheeler