Minister complains Covid isolation has confined him to 'cooler' for six of past eight weeks

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Greg Hands MP
Greg Hands MP

A senior government minister has complained that the rules governing self-isolation have left him trapped at home for six out of the past eight weeks.

Greg Hands, the minister for Trade Policy, said that he had spent 43 days of the 61 days since the beginning of June in self-isolation.

The Minister of State in the Department for International Trade posted on Twitter a video of Steve McQueen repeatedly throwing a baseball against the wall of the prison camp 'cooler' in the Second World War film The Great Escape to demonstrate his frustration.

He wrote: "Oh no! Child tested positive again. Another 10 days in the cooler - after just one day back out. This will make it 43 days of self-isolation for me since 1st June."

Mr Hands, 55, a minister in the International Trade department since February last year, lives in Fulham, west London with his German wife Irina, and has a son and a daughter.

Mr Hands is understood to have had to self-isolate for 10 days each on four occasions since June 1: twice because his son tested positive on two separate occasions and twice because he shared a plane with someone who had symptoms.

The periods in self-isolation only affected his work once when he had to pull out of a visit to the World Trade Organisation in Geneva. Otherwise he has been able to work from home.

The comments from Mr Hands lay bare the frustration felt by ministers at the way the requirement to self-isolate after being 'pinged' by the Covid app has frustrated a return to normal working life.

A senior Conservative Cabinet minister told The Sunday Telegraph late last week: "We need to get out of this f------ 'pingdemic' b-------."

From August 16 in England, the double-jabbed do not need to self-isolate for 10 days if told of contact with someone who has Covid, as is currently the case. A test is advised instead.

But that change is happening on August 7 in Wales, August 9 in Scotland and August 12 in Northern Ireland, leading to calls for Mr Johnson to bring the date forward.

The minister recognised that Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, is now under pressure to bring forward the August 16 date when double-jabbed people can return to work after a negative PCR test.

The minister added: "With the Welsh and the Scots going a bit early it does ramp up the pressure a bit. But it is just over-bureaucratic - that is the trouble."

A spokesman for 10 Downing Street insisted that the August 16 date will not be brought forward, despite the calls to do so.

In The Telegraph on Saturday, Tony Danker, director general of the Confederation of British Industry, said Mr Johnson should end self-isolation rules "tomorrow" and called for a shift from "mass isolation" to "mass testing".

A Government spokesman said last night: “By waiting until 16 August to relax isolation rules, we will slow the rise in cases and have more time to get even more jabs into arms.

“Relaxing isolation rules now, at the same time as easing social contact restrictions, could place further pressure on case numbers at a time when a significant number of adults have not had both doses of a vaccine.”

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