Self-isolation rules will be in law until MARCH: Tory MPs blast the Government for enshrining Omicron regulations for FOUR MONTHS despite promising to review the curbs in three weeks amid fears of return to a pingdemic
Tory MPs have blasted the Government after it emerged new rules on self-isolation will be enshrined in law until March, sparking fears the curbs could remain in place far beyond a promised three week review.
A new restriction came into force yesterday which will require people who have been in contact with a case of the Omicron coronavirus variant to self-isolate for 10 days or risk a fine of up to £10,000.
Boris Johnson has said that rule, along with requirements to wear face masks in shops and on public transport and for returning travellers to take a PCR test on or before day two after arrival, will be reviewed before Natale.
But the regulations underpinning the self-isolation rule are not due to expire until March 24, prompting a backlash from anti-lockdown Tories.
Conservative MPs have expressed concerns that the new rule could cause a fresh ‘pingdemic’ which could devastate the economy and education system.
But Health Secretary Sajid Javid today dismissed those concerns as he said the current number of Omicron cases is still ‘very low’ con 22 confirmed cases across the UK.
New self-isolation rules requiring close contacts of cases of the Omicron variant to stay at home for 10 days will be enshrined in law until March
The Government has insisted the rules will be reviewed in three weeks’ time but Tory MPs, including former chief whip Mark Harper, have expressed concerns about the expiry date
Tory MPs fear a return to the ‘pingdemic’ but Health Secretary Sajid Javid today dismissed their concerns as he said the number of Omicron cases is still ‘very low’
MPs voted yesterday to overwhelmingly support Mr Johnson’s new rule on self-isolation by 431 voti a favore 36, come 32 Tories rebelled to vote against.
Tory backbenchers are worried that while the Government has said the restrictions will be reviewed in three weeks, ministers could subsequently act to keep them in place.
The rule on compulsory face masks will expire on December 20 but the rule on self-isolation will be enshrined in law until March 24.
Former chief whip Mark Harper raised the expiry date issue with Vaccine Minister Maggie Throup yesterday as he said: ‘The Government have said that they are going to review these measures after three weeks and she is right—on the face masks, the regulations expire on 20 December—but the self-isolation SI (statutory instrument) has no expiry date, which means it will run all the way until the main statutory instrument expires on 24 marzo 2022. Why is that?’
Ms Throup said Mr Harper had made a ‘very good point’ but insisted ‘we will not continue to have these regulations in place for any longer than is necessary’.
Mr Harper said: ‘While ministers have been clear that the regulations will be reviewed in three weeks… the regulations are not time limited; they amend another set of regulations that do not have an expiry date until March next year.
‘Although the minister tells me that they will not be enforced for a day longer than necessary, she must recognise that, given the events of the past few weeks and how ministers handled, tra le altre cose, the standards measures, there has been a diminution in trust between backbenchers and ministers.’
Government sources told Politico that the March date is the result of a technical issue relating to how the change was made in legislation and have stressed the important moment is the three-week review.
The new rule on self-isolation has prompted fears among Tory MPs of a potential return to the ‘pingdemic’ which wreaked havoc across the country earlier this year as thousands of people were told to stay at home.
Tory MP Steve Brine said: ‘We are not just looking at a pingdemic in our economy and in our businesses; we are looking at a pingdemic that will devastate education again.
‘After everything that we have learned—everything that I have felt in my own family—are we really, sul serio, going to do that to our children again?’
Fellow Tory MP Craig Mackinlay said: ‘I am afraid that the proposals mean we are going to fall into a new pingdemic.’
But Mr Javid today said he is not worried about a potential ‘pingdemic’ because the number of Omicron cases is still ‘very low’.
He told Sky News: 'No, no I am not. At this point in time the case numbers are very low. I think throughout the UK we have got 22 confirmed cases at the moment.
'Adesso, that will go up, it will certainly go up, but the numbers are low, I hope it sort of stays that way.
'Così, I am not worried about a pingdemic type situation but we have always also said that even before we knew about the variant in our Plan A we have always been clear that as you get into deeper winter, the colder, darker days, the virus likes that, not just this virus, the flu virus, they like that.
‘So as we do that then people should just be careful to try and think can they ventilate a room and just follow the current guidance.’