BORIS Johnson and his Cabinet were hit by a Covid “pingdemic” crisis tonight after Health Secretary Sajid Javid tested positive.
The team including Chancellor Rishi Sunak faced the prospect of isolating ahead of Freedom Day tomorrow.
One minister said: “I can’t see how half the Cabinet won’t be in isolation by the end of the week.”
And the PM’s plans for a Cabinet “away day” this week look doomed after the Health Secretary’s positive test.
Mr Javid held meetings with the PM and Chancellor Rishi Sunak on Friday morning — sparking fears they and the rest of the Tories’ top team could be infected.
If so, they would have to stick to the rules and isolate for ten days — while the rest of the country is freed from restrictions tomorrow.
Any Cabinet lockdown would wipe out Thursday’s planned summit at a secret location in the North where the PM was expected to trumpet how he was delivering on his “levelling up” promises.
One minister said tonight: “I can’t see how half the Cabinet won’t be in isolation by the end of the week. There must have been a lot of pinging on ministerial phones over the last few hours.
“There’s no doubt that Boris and Rishi will be a high risk as they hold a daily meeting with the Health Secretary.”
Mr Javid, who has been double jabbed with the Astra Zeneca vaccine, took a lateral flow test yesterday after feeling “a bit groggy” on Friday night.
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When it returned positive he raised the alarm directly with the PM — before announcing the bad news on his Twitter feed at 1.30pm yesterday.
He also took a more accurate PCR test and was tonight anxiously awaiting the result.
If positive, then anybody in contact with him would be required by law to isolate.
Mr Javid said: “This morning I tested positive for Covid. I’m waiting for my PCR result, but thankfully I have had my jabs and symptoms are mild.”
A Cabinet insider said: “Boris will simply hate the idea of having to go into lockdown, especially on the eve of Freedom Day.
“But the backlash he would get from bending the rules would be more intense than the pain of having to stay locked in the flat.”
Mr Javid was seen walking out of No10 at 10.16am on Friday after almost 90 minutes with the PM.
He also held meetings with Mr Sunak and senior health officials.
Ninety-four minutes later, the PM posed for pictures with organisers of the Rugby League World Cup on a visit to Downing Street.
Despite only feeling unwell from Friday night, Mr Javid could have been infected for several days before the virus would have been detectable in his system.
On Tuesday, he visited a care home in Streatham, South London.
Earlier that day he was in Parliament mixing with ministers.
It was understood Dan Rosenfield, Mr Johnson’s chief of staff, was among senior figures isolating this weekend.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer sent Mr Javid a get-well message, saying: “Sorry to hear this, but good news that your symptoms are mild. Hope you feel better soon.”
The setback comes as 50,000 Brits a day are pinged by the NHS app about a close Covid contact and told to isolate. But that number is expected to rocket from tomorrow’s unlocking.
Business leaders predict five million people could be stuck at home before the end of the month — causing crippling staff shortages across industry, transport, retail and leisure sectors
But 15 out of 16 people told to stay at home will have no trace of the virus, according to an Oxford University study.
Last night senior Tories called on the PM to tear up the isolation rules or risk chaos that will cost the economy £1billion a week. Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said yesterday: “The risk with the app is that it is beginning to lose social consent.
“We should either make it less sensitive or move to a system where you have to get a test when you are pinged. The risk is that if people are deleting the app, then you can’t even ping them to ask them to have a test.”
NATIONAL SECURITY RISK
The armed forces fear national security could be at risk with 5,200 military personnel off duty because they are isolating.
Meanwhile Tory MP Mark Francois warned: “The test and trace computer is beginning to remind me of the Skynet system in film The Terminator which went berserk and took over the world.
“It’s time for we humans to seize control from the computer.”
An ex-minister added: “This is another hangover from the app brought in by the previous Health Secretary Matt Hancock. He’s been gone for three weeks but the dead arm still reaches out.”
Nearly eight million people have so far been contacted by NHS Test and Trace while 3.4 million have been “pinged” by the app, according to latest figures. Lord Bilimoria of the CBI said: “The cases have already crossed 50,000 a day. If you cross 100,000, instead of having 500,000 people isolating, we will go up to 4.5 million to five million.”
Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said: “We’re hours from Freedom Day which has been heralded as the final step towards a normal life. Yet we are like a prisoner who has had their cell door unlocked but is afraid to venture out in case a guard shoots him.
“The Government has to make bold decisions now to avoid a total mess.”
THE SUN ON SUNDAY SAYS
COVID chaos at the heart of Government is the last thing we need as we finally lift curbs.
For Boris Johnson to be trapped in self-isolation on his much-vaunted Freedom Day would be the grimmest of ironies.
But the PM, like millions pinged by the NHS virus app, has been in contact with a person who tested positive for Covid, in this case Health Secretary Sajid Javid.
Fortunately the risk is low for anyone who, like Mr Javid, is double-jabbed.
A greater risk is the Covid app “pingdemic” crippling the economy as we come out of lockdown.
The NHS has heroically withstood previous waves of Covid. But it is now being hobbled by pings on its own app, with a quarter of junior doctors in self-isolation at some hospitals.
This comes as an Oxford study shows 15 out of every 16 people told to isolate have no trace of the virus, while business leaders predict five million of us could be stuck at home before the end of this month.
Yet still we are expected to wait another four weeks before August 16, when the double-jabbed will no longer have to isolate after contact with positive cases.
Boris must act now if Freedom Day is to mean anything at all.
We can’t cope with another month of this pointless electronic lockdown.
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