Furious Covid row on the eve of Freedom Day as Boris is accused Boris of ...

Furious Covid row on the eve of Freedom Day as Boris is accused Boris of ...
Furious Covid row on the eve of Freedom Day as Boris is accused Boris of ...

Boris Johnson's plans for a triumphant end to more than six months of lockdown in England tomorrow were in complete disarray today amid a pulsating row over Freedom Day.

The Prime Minister found himself under attack from all sides of the political spectrum amid surging virus cases and hundreds of thousands being forced to self-isolate by the NHS Covid app.

Former prime minister Tony Blair led calls today for the quarantine rules to be axed for the fully vaccinated immediately as firms warned of imminent closures to factories, potentially affecting food supplies. 

Meanwhile public transport has also been hit, with parts of the London Underground forced to shut yesterday due to a lack of staff.

But at the same time leading public health officials from across the UK warned that tomorrow's great unlocking in England - while other home nations take more cautious routes from lockdown - risked 'letting Covid rip'.

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The Mail on Sunday today revealed that Mr Johnson cancelled plans for a Churchillian launch of Freedom Day after No 10 became alarmed by the surge in the number of infections.

Officials had discussed marking the lifting of Covid restrictions with a rousing speech by the Prime Minister at an historic venue associated with the wartime leader – until scientific advisers took fright at the recent climb in cases.

Mr Johnson has abandoned his previously bullish attitude to tomorrow's ditching of most restrictions – including social distancing and legal limits on gatherings – and is no longer referring to the moment as 'irreversible'.

Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt yesterday described the situation as 'very serious', and raised the prospect of another lockdown this autumn. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has abandoned plans for a Churchillian victory speech tomorrow because of the rapidly escalating numbers of Covid-19 infection

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has abandoned plans for a Churchillian victory speech tomorrow because of the rapidly escalating numbers of Covid-19 infection 

Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt called the situation ‘very serious’ and raised the prospect of another lockdown this autumn

Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt called the situation 'very serious' and raised the prospect of another lockdown this autumn

PM and Chancellor sidestep quarantine after Javid catches Covid 

Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak are to avoid going into self-isolation despite close contact with Sajid Javid, who has Covid.

The Health Secretary triggered fears of a disruptive 'pingdemic' striking at the heart of Government after reveling yesterday he has tested positive. 

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Mr Javid had visited the Commons and Downing Street in previous days – and is understood to have held a lengthy face-to-face meeting with Boris Johnson just before his symptoms developed – sparking concerns that senior figures across Whitehall would have to be confined to home.

One insider warned that 'half the Cabinet' could be in isolation by the end of the week.

But this morning No10 said Mr Johnson would take advantage of a pilot scheme not widely available tot he public to avoid going into isolation. 

'The Prime Minister and Chancellor have been contacted by NHS Test and Trace as contacts of someone who has tested positive for Covid', a spokesman said.

'They will be participating in the daily contact testing pilot to allow them to continue to work from Downing Street. 

'They will be conducting only essential government business during this period.' 

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Mr Hunt, who is now chairman of the Commons Health and Social Care Committee, said that if cases were still rising in September, 'I think we are going to have to reconsider'.

He added the NHS dashboard's warning light 'is not flashing amber, it is flashing red', although he admitted he was hopeful that enough people have had either the virus or vaccine for the country to be approaching herd immunity. 

A Government source said: 'The plan had been for Boris to effectively declare victory over the virus by summoning the spirit of Churchill, with appropriately stirring rhetoric. That no longer feels appropriate.'

Despite the relaxation in rules, the official guidelines still advise that facemasks should be worn in enclosed spaces such as shops and on public transport, while pubs and bars should be table service only.

Mr Johnson published a biography of Churchill, writing that 'he alone saved our civilisation'.

Critics detected an attempt to draw parallels with his predecessor when the Prime Minister described him as 'a thoroughgoing genius' although 'there were too many Tories who thought of him as an unprincipled opportunist'.

On Friday, the UK recorded more than 50,000 daily cases of Covid for the first time since mid-January and that tally is soon expected to pass the previous peak of 68,000.

Yesterday, the number of daily cases hit 54,674, with 740 patients admitted to hospital and 41 deaths.

But vaccination rates are slowing, with 67,956 people having their first dose on Friday, and 188,976 their second: daily rates were running well below the level at the height of the rollout.

The total number of people who have had both doses across the UK is now more than 35.7 million – just under 68 per cent of adults. 

Professor John Edmunds, a member of the Government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said he thought the current wave 'will be quite long and drawn out… my hunch is that we are looking at a high level of incidence for a protracted period right through the summer and probably much of the autumn'.

Tomorrow morning, most Covid-19 restrictions are being lifted across England, although governments in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are re-opening at a slower pace

Tomorrow morning, most Covid-19 restrictions are being lifted across England, although governments in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are re-opening at a slower pace

He added that with infections doubling every two weeks, the number of cases could soon reach 100,000 a day – something which he ascribed to the number of young people still unvaccinated.

Underlining the risks involved in the unlocking, Sajid Javid revealed on Saturday that he had tested positive for Covid and was self-isolating - describing his symptoms as 'mild' and saying he has been double-jabbed.

Even as fellow MPs rushed to wish him well, alarm bells started ringing over a 'pingdemic' at the heart of government - with 'close contacts' of the health secretary potentially forced into 10-day home isolation.

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