Keir Starmer has challenged Downing Street to bring forward the date on which fully vaccinated people in England can avoid coronavirus isolation if they have been in contact with a person who has tested positive, in a move that would match a date of 7 August in Wales.
The call from the Labour leader – which adds to pressure from Conservative MPs – comes after the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, insisted on Thursday that the public had to “stick with” the 16 August date.
“This has been a summer of chaos for British businesses and British families. The Tory government has never been able to explain the logic of their self-isolation rules and has just repeated the same mistakes over and over again,” said Starmer
“While the British public have been trying to do the right thing, we saw this government’s instincts when Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak tried to avoid the isolation millions have had to endure.
“The government’s slapdash approach to this global pandemic is crippling our economy and creating real problems for businesses and families alike. Welsh Labour has shown what can be done and it’s time for the Tories to do the same.”
Scotland is expected to remove the need for fully vaccinated people to isolate on 9 August while Wales’s Labour first minister, Mark Drakeford, confirmed on Thursday that 7 August would be the day when fully vaccinated adults there can escape isolation.
The pressure on Boris Johnson comes as business leaders, health experts and trade associations representing tens of thousands of businesses have hit out at his government’s handling of the “pingdemic” self-isolation crisis amid concern that staff absences are stifling economic recovery.
Jeremy Hunt, the Conservative former health secretary, said last week the government risked “losing social consent” for isolation if it did not bring forward the relaxation of quarantine rules for the fully vaccinated.
On another front, the government is also facing a mounting diplomatic row over its insistence that the France has to remain on the so-called “amber-plus” list, requiring arrivals from there to isolate when they enter the UK.
The foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, admitted on Thursday the decision to impose tougher restrictions on millions of fully vaccinated French citizens and Britons holidaying or living across the Channel was partly due to the prevalence of the Beta variant on Réunion.
France’s Europe minister, Clément Beaune, called the British restrictions “discriminatory” and said they made no sense.