NHS pay: Sajid Javid says he is ‘considering recommendation’

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Sajid Javid told MPs that over-18s with full protection from coronavirus and a negative PCR test will no longer have to stay at home for 10 days after a test-and-trace alert. He said yesterday that children will also be exempt from quarantine, even though under-18s cannot ­currently get Covid jabs, providing they test negative for the virus.

So far 33.9 million people have had both doses of the vaccine.

Mr Javid said the end to enforced isolation was possible because of the success of the vaccine rollout.

He said: “Freedom is in our sights once again, thanks to the protective wall of this country’s vaccination programme and the huge advances we’ve made in ­getting this virus under control.”

But millions could still be ordered to stay at home until the new rules come into effect on August 16.

Mr Javid also suggested cases could rise to more than 100,000 ­a day over the summer as restrictions are eased.

His statement followed Monday’s announcement from Boris Johnson of his aim to scrap most Covid ­regulations from July 19.

Echoing the Prime Minister’s pledge of a careful approach, the Health Secretary told MPs: “I understand that some people are cautious about the idea of easing restrictions.

“But we must balance the risks. The risks of a virus that has been diminished, but not defeated, against the risks of keeping these restrictions, and the health, social and economic hardship that we know they bring.

“Self-isolation has played a ­critical role in helping us to get this virus under control, by denying the virus the human contact that it needs to spread.

“And I’m so grateful to the many people all across the UK who ­have selflessly done their duty, making sacrifices so we can keep the virus at bay.

“We’ve done everything in our power to support the people who’ve had to self-isolate. Yesterday, we announced we’ll be extending our financial support until September. I’m fully aware of how difficult it’s been. And that it’s meant people missing out on ­precious moments and spending time apart from loved ones.”

Mr Javid said Covid vaccines offered “huge protection” against the virus. He added: “This protective wall, because that’s what it is, means the odds have shifted in our favour, and we can look afresh at many of the measures that we’ve had to put in place.

“This is especially important when almost two-thirds of adults have had both doses of a vaccine, and so have got the maximum ­protection on offer.

“We will soon be able to take ­a risk-based approach, that ­recognises the huge benefits that vaccines provide, both to the ­people who get the jab and to their loved ones too.

“So, from August 16, when even more people will have the protection of both doses and when modelling suggests the risk from the virus will be lower, anyone who’s a close contact of a positive case will no longer have to self-isolate, if they’ve been fully vaccinated.

“If someone gets their second dose just before, or after, August 16, they’ll need to wait until two weeks after they get the second jab to benefit from these new freedoms so the vaccine has time to build the maximum possible protection.”

Mr Javid said under the new test-and-trace regime the Government will advise anyone in contact with an infected person to “take a PCR test as soon as possible so they ­
can get certainty about their condition”.

He added: “Of course, anyone who tests positive will have to ­self-isolate, whether they’ve had the jab or not.

“This new approach means we can manage the virus in a way that’s proportionate to the ­pandemic, while maintaining the freedoms that are so important ­to us all.”

Mr Javid pointed out that the new rules for youngsters will come into force ahead of the new school term in September.

He said: “We’ve thought carefully about how we can make sure young people get the life experiences that are so important to their development while at the same time keeping them safe from this deadly virus.

“In line with the approach for adults, anyone under the age of ­18, who is a close contact of a ­positive case, will no longer need to self-isolate.

“Instead, they’ll be given advice about whether they should get tested, dependent on their age, and they’ll need to self-isolate if they test positive.

“We’re also looking at the ­self-isolation rules for international arrivals so we can remove the need for fully vaccinated individuals to isolate when they return from amber list countries and the Transport Secretary will update the House later this week.

“Step by step, and jab by jab, we’re replacing the temporary ­protection of the restrictions with the long-term protection of a ­vaccine so we can restore the ­freedoms that we cherish, and ­the experiences that mean so much to us all.

“Let’s all play our part, to ­protect ourselves and to protect others, as we enter these crucial few weeks.

“So that in this battle between the vaccine and the virus, the ­vaccine will prevail.” Labour called the Government’s plan “reckless” and called for ministers to maintain protections such as mask-wearing.

Calum Semple, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, said the lifting of ­coronavirus restrictions is a “calculated risk”.

Professor Semple said: “We do have good data that does ­indicate we are gradually breaking the ­links in the chain between community cases and severe cases in hospital.

“I should point out, looking at the data last night, 88 per cent of people in hospital, from what ­I could see, had not been vaccinated or had had the vaccine but hadn’t had the chance to develop immunity.

“There’s now an incredibly strong signal that the vaccination is working and protecting the vast majority of people.”

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality, said: “Today’s announcement doesn’t go far enough, quickly enough.

“The sector is experiencing severe staff shortages, compounded massively by the absence of team members who have been told to isolate despite not having shared shifts with colleagues who tested positive.”

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