Fears of a Downing Street ‘pingdemic’ swirled tonight after Sajid Javid tested positive for Covid – with one insider warning that ‘half the Cabinet’ could be in isolation by the end of the week.
The 51-year-old Health Secretary revealed his diagnosis on Saturday morning after ‘feeling groggy’ on Friday evening, tweeting that he was suffering ‘mild’ symptoms and had been double vaccinated.
Test and trace rules mean that anyone who has come into close contact with Mr Javid could now be forced into a 10-day self isolation, as it was claimed Boris Johnson held a ‘lengthy’ meeting with Sajid in Downing Street just hours before his symptoms developed.
Photos showed the Health Secretary leaving No.10 on Friday as a source told The Independent that the pair held face-to-face talks, meaning the Prime Minister could soon join hundreds of thousands of Britons in being confirmed to his home.
Several Cabinet ministers and protection staff could also find themselves ‘pinged’ by the NHS Test and Trace app once Mr Javid’s diagnosis is confirmed by a PCR test. He was initially diagnosed using a rapid lateral flow test.
Mr Javid was in the Commons Monday to announce Freedom Day plans to parliament, and on Tuesday visited a care home in south London and held more meetings with ministers.
‘I don’t see how half the Cabinet doesn’t end up in isolation by the end of the week,’ one government source told The Telegraph.
The potential disruption in Downing Street underlines the chaos facing Britons as most Covid rules are dropped next week when it is expected cases will soar – potentially pushing millions of people per week into self-isolation.
Rules will be relaxed allowing double-vaccinated people, such as government ministers, to avoid the isolation period but will only come into effect on August 16.
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
Mr Javid was pictured leaving Downing Street on Friday, just hours before developing symptoms, where it is thought he held a ‘lengthy’ meeting with Boris Johnson
The Health Secretary was also in the Commons on Monday to announce Freedom Day plans to the nation, before visiting a care home on Tuesday and holding more meetings with ministers
Mr Javid had his first Oxford-AstraZeneca jab on March 17 and was given a follow up dose on May 16.
Scientists have always said vaccines are not 100 per cent effective at preventing Covid transmission — the main purpose of jabs is to reduce severe illness and prevent death.
He tested positive for the virus on a rapid lateral flow test and is waiting for a result on a more accurate PCR test.
The Health Secretary said he took the test after feeling groggy this morning but his symptoms are otherwise ‘very mild’ so far.
Well-wishers flocked to social media to bid Mr Javid a speedy recovery, including MPs Angela Richardson and Karl Turner and the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan.
His positive test came amid fears around the Beta variant that originated in South Africa, with scientists concerned the mutant strain could become more prevalent because of its resistance to the AstraZeneca jab.
SAGE member Professor John Edmunds today said the variant ‘has always been a threat to us’, with experts worried by its rapid spread in France.
Brits fully-vaccinated with AstraZeneca’s Covid jab may be up to THREE TIMES more likely to get symptoms if infected than those who got Pfizer’s
Scientists at Imperial College London estimate two doses of AstraZeneca’s jab is 55 per cent effective at blocking symptoms of the Indian ‘Delta’ variant.
But the efficacy figure for two doses of either Pfizer or Moderna is thought to be in the region of 85 per cent, they say.
It means that for 100 unvaccinated people who developed symptomatic Covid, 45 would have been expected to have developed tell-tale signs of the illness had they been given two doses of AstraZeneca’s jab.
Just 15 people would have been struck down with symptoms for Pfizer or Moderna, according to the Imperial team, whose estimates were made in June.
The figures are the latest blow to the jab, after it was revealed by researchers today that elderly people who get that vaccine are less likely to have antibodies than those who had Pfizer.
But estimates from other universities found that the Pfizer and Moderna jabs are only slightly more effective than the Oxford injection.
In another day of Covid chaos:
- Experts warned coronavirus cases will stay high for months until autumn after passing 100,000 in two weeks’ time and a new lockdown will be needed by September;
- More than 1,200 ‘Zero Covid’ scientists accused the UK of ‘endangering the world’ and creating conditions for the emergence of a new variant by pressing on with ‘Freedom Day’ on July 19;
- Industry bosses warned Britain faces food shortages with shops being closed early and bins not emptied for ten weeks if urgent action is not taken to address the ‘pingdemic’;
- A senior Government adviser revealed Professor Chris Whitty was worried about over-reacting to the threat of the pandemic, leading to tensions with his scientific counterpart Sir Patrick Vallance;
- British holidaymakers have revealed their fury as families are forced to cancel trips to France after a last-minute reversal of the amber list rule change.
The timing of Mr Javid’s infection could hardly be more inopportune for the Government as it prepares for most statutory controls in England to end from Monday.
Some scientists have expressed deep misgivings over the decision to go ahead with the final step of the Government’s road map out of lockdown while infections continue to soar.
The Liberal Democrats said that Mr Javid’s positive test underlined the case for Government to rethink its plans.
Health spokeswoman Munira Wilson said: ‘This shows no-one is safe from this deadly virus.
‘By easing all restrictions with cases surging, they are experimenting with people’s lives.
‘Right now, they are pursuing a strategy of survival of the fittest, where the young and clinically vulnerable will be left defenceless.’
There was no immediate comment from No 10 as to when the Health Secretary last met face-to-face with Boris Johnson.
NHS Test and Trace will only begin the process of tracking down his recent close contacts and telling them to self-isolate if the PCR test proves positive.
Mr Javid has been working from his office at the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) in Whitehall and was in the Commons chamber three times in the past week.
On Monday he delivered a statement on lifting lockdown, while the following day he was answering health and social care questions. On on Wednesday he opened the second reading debate on the Health and Social Care Bill.
Mr Javid had his first Oxford-AstraZeneca jab on March 17 (left) and was given a follow up dose on May 16 (right)
On Tuesday, Mr Javid also visited a residential care home in Streatham, south London.
Mr Javid was only appointed to the post last month following the resignation of Matt Hancock after CCTV footage emerged showing him kissing an aide in his office in breach of social distancing rules.
He is seen by Tories as being noticeably keener than his predecessor on easing restrictions.
The disclosure of his positive test came after another Tory former health secretary Jeremy Hunt warned the Government could be forced to reimpose restrictions if cases carried on rising into the autumn.
After officials figures from Friday showed that new daily cases in the UK had exceeded 50,000 for the first time since mid-January, Mr Hunt said the NHS was in a ‘very serious’ situation.
‘The warning light on the NHS dashboard is not flashing amber, it is flashing red,’ he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
‘I think coming into September we are almost certainly going to see infections reach a new daily peak going above the 68,000 daily level which was the previous daily record in January.
‘If they are still going up as the schools are coming back I think we are going to have to reconsider some very difficult decisions. How we behave over the next few weeks will have a material difference.’
Professor John Edmunds, a member of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said that cases could reach 100,000 a day within weeks.
He said that without the social distancing measures which brought the first two waves of the pandemic under control, the virus would continue to spread.
‘I think this wave of the epidemic will be quite long and drawn out,’ he told the Today programme.
‘My hunch is that we are looking at a high level of incidence for a protracted period right through the summer and probably through much of the autumn.
‘We are at about 50,000 (infections) a day now. The epidemic has been doubling roughly every two weeks, and so if we allow things as they are for another couple of weeks you could expect it to get to 100,000 cases a day.’
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
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
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