Sajid Javid last night triggered fears of a disruptive ‘pingdemic’ striking at the heart of Government after testing positive for coronavirus.
The Health Secretary had visited the Commons and Downing Street in previous days – and is understood to have held a lengthy face-to-face meeting with Boris Johnson just before his symptoms developed – sparking concerns that senior figures across Whitehall would have to be confined to home.
One insider warned that ‘half the Cabinet’ could be in isolation by the end of the week.
After feeling ‘a bit groggy’ on Friday night, Mr Javid – who has been double-jabbed – took a lateral flow test yesterday. When it came back positive, he began self-isolating with his family pending the results of a more reliable PCR test.
He said his symptoms were ‘mild’ but there were immediate concerns over those he had been in contact with, including Ministers and senior civil servants.
Downing Street last night said that if Mr Javid’s PCR test came back positive, those he had been close to him would be traced.
The Health Secretary was pictured leaving No 10 on Friday, shortly before he began to feel unwell, and earlier in the week he had visited vulnerable people in a care home.
There are fears Sajid Javid could have sparked a ‘pingdemic’ in Downing Street after testing positive for Covid, with Boris Johnson possibly among the Health Secretary’s ‘close contacts’ after he was pictured leaving No.10 on Friday (left)
The Health Secretary was also in the Commons on Monday to announce Freedom Day plans to the nation, meeting with senior ministers the same day
Mr Javid also visited a care home in South London on Tuesday, congratulating managers for vaccinating 100% of the staff
Health Secretary Sajid Javid revealed in a video today that he has tested positive for Covid-19, sparking fears of a Downing Street ‘pingdemic’ with senior government ministers forced into self-isolation
Up to 1million people were asked to self-isolate last week, data suggests. But that figure could hit 5.6million by the end of the month, if cases spiral by 75 per cent every week (right), according to MailOnline analysis. Separate projections based on a growth rate of 40 per cent – similar to what Test and Trace reported last week – still says the number of people self-isolating could hit 3million a week. But the true figure will be much lower because many people who are told to self-isolate end up testing positive, and some people will be flagged down by both NHS Test and Trace and the app
Around 1.8million people were asked to self-isolate last week in England, data suggests. That includes 194,000 people who tested positive, 520,000 who were ‘pinged’ by the app, almost 340,000 who were contacted directly by Test and Trace, and 750,000 schoolchildren
Schools, hospitals, transport services and factories have been decimated by staff shortages caused by the ‘pingdemic’ of notifications on the NHS Covid app.
Hundreds of thousands of people have been told they have been close to someone who has tested positive so must self-isolate, while others have been contacted by Test and Trace call centres.
Unlike most ordinary members of the public, however, many Whitehall officials and Ministers have been able to carry on visiting their offices if they take a daily test. They include Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove, who was ‘pinged’ in May when he flew out to Porto to watch the Champions League football final but was able to avoid self-isolation by entering a ‘research programme’ called the Daily Contact Testing Study.
The Whitehall scare – just hours before the so-called Freedom Day relaxation of Covid measures tomorrow – came as industry chiefs warned of food shortages and unemptied bins if urgent action was not taken to address the sensitivity of the app.
One London Underground line closed yesterday when control room staff were forced to self-isolate, and teaching unions said there had been reports of children being taken out of school because parents were scared of losing family holidays if they were ‘pinged’.
Meanwhile, Ministers warned that France could be moved to the ‘red list’ of countries over fears that the South African, or Beta, variant spreading rapidly in the country could evolve to evade the vaccine.
On Friday night, the Government excluded France from new rules for amber list countries that allow double-jabbed travellers to escape up to ten days of home quarantine on their return, sparking anger among holidaymakers and the travel industry.
If France is added to the red list, returning Britons would be forced to pay up to £1,750 for a ten-day stay in a quarantine hotel – although there are only thought to be about 20,000 such rooms available and up to 500,000 Britons are estimated to be in France.
In other developments:
- Mr Johnson cancelled plans for a Churchillian ‘Freedom Day’ event at an historic venue associated with the wartime leader after No 10 became alarmed by the surge in the number of infections;
- The UK moved closer to the previous peak of 68,000 daily cases, recorded in January, with infections reaching 54,674;
- Figures also showed 740 patients had been admitted to hospital in the previous 24 hours and 41 deaths were reported;
- A total of 67,956 people had their first vaccine and 188,976 their second, bringing the number of fully vaccinated people to 35,732,297 – or 67.8 per cent of all adults.
- Mr Javid became embroiled in a row with Rishi Sunak over plans for a £10 billion-a-year ‘health tax’ to clear the backlog of operations and fund care for the elderly, with sources telling this newspaper that Mr Johnson had asked Mr Javid to pressure the Chancellor to impose the levy;
- Prince Charles has told aides that he will wear a mask only when Government advice dictates that he should do so;
- Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the Government may have to reimpose lockdown if Covid cases continue to rise, adding: ‘The warning light on the NHS dashboard is not flashing amber, it is flashing red’;
- The Olympic athletes’ village in Tokyo recorded its first Covid case, prompting fears for the Games.
Mr Javid was appointed Health Secretary three weeks ago after Matt Hancock resigned. Leaked footage showed Mr Hancock breaching social distancing rules by embracing his aide Gina Coladangelo in his Westminster office.
Announcing his positive test on Twitter yesterday, Mr Javid – who has had two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine – wrote: ‘I’m waiting for my PCR result, but thankfully I have had my jabs and symptoms are mild. Please make sure you come forward for your vaccine if you haven’t already.’
He visited Aashna House care home in Streatham, South London, on Tuesday. All staff and residents have been vaccinated and the home said yesterday that it has no current Covid cases.
Mr Javid had his first Oxford-AstraZeneca jab on March 17 (left) and was given a follow up dose on May 16 (right)
In a more positive sign, SAGE today estimated England’s R rate is between 1.2 and 1.4, down from last week’s figure of between 1.2 and 1.5
Soaring infections mean Boris can’t ‘play Churchill’ on Freedom Day
Boris Johnson cancelled plans for a Churchillian launch of Freedom Day after No 10 became alarmed by the surge in the number of infections, The Mail on Sunday has learned.
Officials had discussed marking the lifting of Covid restrictions with a rousing speech by the Prime Minister at an historic venue associated with the wartime leader – until scientific advisers took fright at the recent climb in cases.
Mr Johnson has abandoned his previously bullish attitude to tomorrow’s ditching of most restrictions – including social distancing and legal limits on gatherings – and is no longer referring to the moment as ‘irreversible’.
A Government source said: ‘The plan had been for Boris to effectively declare victory over the virus by summoning the spirit of Churchill, with appropriately stirring rhetoric. That no longer feels appropriate.’
Despite the relaxation in rules, the official guidelines still advise that facemasks should be worn in enclosed spaces such as shops and on public transport, while pubs and bars should be table service only.
Mr Johnson published a biography of Churchill, writing that ‘he alone saved our civilisation’.
Critics detected an attempt to draw parallels with his predecessor when the Prime Minister described him as ‘a thoroughgoing genius’ although ‘there were too many Tories who thought of him as an unprincipled opportunist’.
On Friday, the UK recorded more than 50,000 daily cases of Covid for the first time since mid-January and that tally is soon expected to pass the previous peak of 68,000.
Yesterday, the number of daily cases hit 54,674, with 740 patients admitted to hospital and 41 deaths.
But vaccination rates are slowing, with 67,956 people having their first dose on Friday, and 188,976 their second: daily rates were running well below the level at the height of the rollout.
The total number of people who have had both doses across the UK is now more than 35.7 million – just under 68 per cent of adults.
Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt yesterday described the situation as ‘very serious’, and raised the prospect of another lockdown this autumn.
Mr Hunt, who is now chairman of the Commons Health and Social Care Committee, said that if cases were still rising in September, ‘I think we are going to have to reconsider’.
He added the NHS dashboard’s warning light ‘is not flashing amber, it is flashing red’, although he admitted he was hopeful that enough people have had either the virus or vaccine for the country to be approaching herd immunity.
Professor John Edmunds, a member of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said he thought the current wave ‘will be quite long and drawn out… my hunch is that we are looking at a high level of incidence for a protracted period right through the summer and probably much of the autumn’.
He added that with infections doubling every two weeks, the number of cases could soon reach 100,000 a day – something which he ascribed to the number of young people still unvaccinated.
Don’t panic! Vaccines are working just as expected
Analysis by STEPHEN ADAMS, Medical Editor
MANY will be alarmed that despite being double-jabbed, Sajid Javid has tested positive for Covid-19.
The Health Secretary is by no means a rare case: GPs across the country are seeing increasing numbers of fully inoculated patients catching the virus.
In fact, more than 15,500 partly or fully vaccinated people a day are reporting Covid symptoms, according to the latest research.
That number has soared by about 40 per cent in a week, says the ZOE Covid Symptom Study, which uses an app downloaded by at least three million people to track the disease.
Astonishingly, ZOE data suggests the number of new cases in vaccinated people – called ‘breakthrough’ infections – is set to outstrip unvaccinated cases within days.
A woman receives a Covid vaccine at a pop-up centre in the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall to protect herself against the virus
So what is going on? Thankfully, the message from scientists and clinicians this weekend is reassuring: a jump in cases among the jabbed was always expected and does not mean vaccines are failing.
While highly effective against preventing hospitalisation and deaths, both the AstraZeneca and Pfizer jabs are markedly less effective at preventing any sign of infection. Put simply, the jabs are better at blunting the virus than snuffing it out completely.
Latest figures show two doses of AstraZeneca are 67 per cent effective at preventing symptomatic disease from the Indian – or Delta – variant that now accounts for almost all Covid cases in the UK, while two doses of Pfizer are 88 per cent effective.
In contrast, two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine cut the risk of hospitalisation by 92 per cent. The figure is 96 per cent for two doses of Pfizer.
Such figures are being borne out on the NHS front line: a growing number of vaccinated people are displaying symptoms – but most are not falling seriously ill.
‘We are speaking to lots of Covid-positive patients who have had two vaccines,’ Dr Richard Cook, a GP in Sussex, told Pulse magazine last week. ‘Anecdotally they do not seem to be getting too unwell, and I’m not aware of any of ours being in hospital.’
Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London, who leads the ZOE study, said: ‘In the UK, new cases in vaccinated people are still going up and will soon outpace unvaccinated cases.
Members of the public queue outside to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at a mass-jab cnetre in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall
‘This is probably because we’re running out of unvaccinated susceptible people to infect as more and more people get the vaccine.
‘While the figures look worrying, it’s important to highlight that vaccines have massively reduced severe infections and post-vaccination Covid is a much milder disease for most people.’
NHS vaccination figures back up Prof Spector’s analysis – the pool of totally unvaccinated adults has shrunk from 20 million three months ago to seven million now. Meanwhile, the number of double-jabbed people has risen from ten million to 35.7 million.
Dr Raghib Ali, a senior clinical research associate in epidemiology at the University of Cambridge, said: ‘Inevitably, some people who are vaccinated will get infected. That’s clear.’
Mr Javid is not the first prominent individual to catch Covid despite being double-jabbed. Last month BBC journalist Andrew Marr, who had had the Pfizer jab, revealed he caught the virus while covering the G7 summit in Cornwall.
He said yesterday the infection had been ‘really, really horrid’, adding: ‘Even if you’re double-vaccinated, you don’t have superpowers – you can still get ill.’
When Marr asked Oxford University’s Covid expert Professor Sir Peter Horby in late June if he had simply been ‘unlucky’, the scientist agreed – but said as vaccination levels rose ‘the majority of infections’ would be in those jabbed.
‘That doesn’t mean the vaccines don’t work – breakthroughs are expected,’ Prof Horby added. ‘What we want to do is prevent hospitalisations and deaths, and the vaccines do that very effectively.’