PMQs: Boris Johnson apologises to businesses over ‘pingdemic’ after more than half a million told to isolate
Boris Johnson has apologised to businesses impacted by a rising number of staff members having to self-isolate due to coming into close contact with a positive coronavirus case.
Speaking at the last PMQs before the summer recess, the prime minister – himself isolating at Chequers after coming into contact with COVID-positive Health Secretary Sajid Javid – said “everybody understands the inconvenience of being pinged”.
He added: “I apologise to everybody in business up and down the land in all kinds of services – public sector or otherwise – who are experiencing inconvenience.
“We will be switching, as the House knows, to a system based on contact testing rather than contact isolation – but, until then, I just must remind everybody that isolation is a vital tool of our defence against the disease.”
His comments came as Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer pressed the prime minister on whether someone who is “pinged” by the NHS COVID-19 app should isolate following mixed messages from government ministers.
“With half a million people self-isolating, I think we were all a bit surprised that the prime minister, the chancellor and the cabinet office minister were all randomly chosen for a get-out-of-isolation-free card,” he said.
After it was revealed that Mr Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak had been identified as close contacts of Mr Javid, the government announced that the pair would take part in a pilot scheme which sees isolation replaced by daily testing.
But there was a swift U-turn following a backlash, with Mr Johnson and Mr Sunak now isolating.