Downing Street totally contradicts minister twice in three hours over COVID rules

·Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
·3-min read
Downing Street twice contradicted Paul Scully's comments on the government's coronavirus strategy. (LBC/Sky News)
Downing Street twice contradicted Paul Scully's comments on the government's coronavirus strategy. (LBC/Sky News)

A minister tasked with selling the government’s coronavirus strategy found himself completely contradicted by Downing Street twice in the space of three hours.

Business minister Paul Scully was chosen to represent the government on Tuesday morning’s radio and TV shows following the end of England’s lockdown on Monday.

However, his broadcast round sparked confusion over self-isolation rules and vaccine passports in pubs – with Downing Street stepping in to issue clarifications on both.

First, Scully told Times Radio people should not automatically self-isolate if they are “pinged” by the NHS COVID-19 app, and should instead make an “informed decision” about what to do.

Watch: People should make 'informed decision' if pinged by COVID app – Scully

He said people should “make decisions on what’s best for them”. Scully made similar comments to LBC.

It comes amid the so-called “pingdemic” which has seen hundreds of thousands of people asked to isolate by the NHS app after coming into contact with COVID carriers.

Although it has never been a legal requirement to obey the app’s instructions, official NHS guidance says people should “self-isolate immediately” when told to.

At about 10am, Downing Street rejected Scully's words, saying it is “crucial” to self-isolate when told, and that employers should be supporting this.

“Isolation remains the most important action people can take to stop the spread of the virus,” a Number 10 spokeswoman said.

“Given the risk of having and spreading the virus when people have been in contact with someone with COVID, it is crucial people isolate when they are told to do so, either by NHS Test and Trace or by the NHS COVID app."

The second contradiction came when Scully told Sky News “crowded pubs” would not be included in plans for certain venues to require vaccine passports.

That came after Boris Johnson announced full COVID vaccination will be compulsory for entry to nightclubs and other crowded venues in the autumn.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 19: Britain's Prime Minister, Boris Johnson attends a media briefing on coronavirus online via a screen from Chequers, the country house of the Prime Minister where he is self-isolating at Downing Street on July 19, 2021 in London, England. The Prime Minister and Chancellor were both contacted by Track and Trace this weekend after the Health Minister, Sajod Javid, tested positive for the Covid-19 virus. Today sees the complete relaxation of Covid lockdown rules and is being dubbed
Boris Johnson appears via video-link at Monday's Downing Street press conference. (Getty Images)

At a briefing at about 1pm, Downing Street again went against Scully by refusing to rule out vaccine passports in pubs.

Johnson’s official spokesman said: “The prime minister talked about the sort of areas we were considering, and nightclubs are where there is significant evidence we have at the moment.

“But we’re going to use the coming weeks to look at the evidence, particularly both in the UK and globally before making a specific decision.”

Johnson had said on Monday night that “I certainly don’t want to see passports for pubs” but that “we reserve to do a right to do what is necessary to protect the public”.

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The PM, meanwhile, is facing a rebellion from lockdown-sceptic MPs on the issue.

Sir Charles Walker, vice-chair of the 1922 Committee of Conservative MPs, has already confirmed he will vote against COVID passports.

“I think it will start with nightclubs then quickly move on to other venues and parts of the hospitality sector," he told BBC Radio 4's World at One programme.

“I’m afraid this is just part of the pattern, things are ruled out then a volte-face is done.”

Watch: Last-minute vaccine passports show PM’s panic – Labour

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