Boris Johnson: 'Covid is still a very dangerous disease... please keep self-isolating'

Boris Johnson was speaking to reporters during a visit with Home Secretary Priti Patel to the Surrey Police HQ in Guildford. Credit: PA

Boris Johnson has urged the public to keep following coronavirus self-isolation advice as he accepted criticism over the new exemption list which has been labelled complex and confusing.

"I know that people have been frustrated about the pinging and about the self-isolation, I totally understand that," the prime minister said, "but I think everybody understands that this still is a very dangerous disease."

"We do need to use the tools that we have - self isolation is the one that we've got, I urge people to do it."

Mr Johnson said self-isolation rules will be relaxed for everyone with two coronavirus vaccines, moving to a "test to release" system from August 16.

"Until then please can everybody stick with the programme," he added.

The government's self-isolation rules have come in for intense scrutiny lately after the PM himself caused controversy by hoping to use testing to avoid a period of quarantine after Health Secretary Sajid Javid tested positive.

The PM and chancellor first said they would skip self-isolation despite being in contact with the health secretary by taking advantage of a testing scheme being piloted which releases certain workers from quarantine following a negative test.

He swiftly rolled back on his plan following a huge public backlash, with Labour saying it shows ministers believe "the rules that we are all following don’t apply to them".

Certain critical workers have been granted exemption from coronavirus self-isolation by the government, which was responding to warnings from businesses about staff shortages causing huge issues in their industries.

More than 600,000 people were told by their NHS app to self-isolate in the week to July 14, leading to pleas from industry for help surviving what has been labelled a "pingdemic".

To avoid empty supermarket shelves the government has rolled out a pilot scheme to food producers and distributors, allowing daily on-site testing to protect double-jabbed workers from self-isolation, so long as they do not test positive.

Other critical workers in sectors such as energy and civil nuclear can avoid isolation if they test negative, have been double vaccinated, and their employer has registered them with the government as having a vital role.

Speaking during a visit to Surrey Police HQ in Guildford, the PM also warned against drawing "premature conclusions" from the declining coronavirus case numbers.

The prime minister told reporters: "I've noticed, obviously, that we are six days in to some better figures. But it is very, very important that we don't allow ourselves to run away with premature conclusions about this.

"Step 4 of the opening-up only took place a few days ago, people have got to remain very cautious and that remains the approach of the Government."

He said young people getting vaccinated would "help us all to move forward".

Asked whether students would need to be fully vaccinated to attend lectures or whether football fans would need to be double-jabbed to go to matches, Mr Johnson said: "I think that the young people of this country are doing an incredible job of coming forward to get vaccinations.

"The figures are outstanding. It's almost 70% now of 18-20 year-olds who have come forward to get jabs, it's just wonderful.

"It is a great thing to do. I would just say that my message to everybody is: get your first jab if you haven't yet got one, but get your second jab too.

"It will help protect you, protect your family and help us all to move forward."

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