After new self-isolation rules were revealed in the law, Tory MPs criticized the government. This sparked fears that the restrictions could be in place for much longer than the promised three weeks 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 said this rule along with the requirement to wear facemasks in shops, on public transport, and that returning travelers must take a PCR test within two days of arrival will all be reviewed prior to Christmas.
However, the regulations that underpin the self-isolation rules aren’t due to expire before March 24, prompting an anti-lockdown Tory backlash.
Conservative MPs expressed concern that this new rule might cause another ‘pingdemic,’ which could lead to economic and educational disasters.
Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary of the UK, dismissed the concerns. There are currently 22 Omicron confirmed cases.
Up to March, new self-isolation laws will require close contact with Omicron variant cases to remain at home for a minimum of 10 days.
Although the government has stated that the rules would be reviewed in 3 weeks’ time, Tory MPs such as Mark Harper, former chief whip, expressed concern about their expiry date.
Conservative MPs are worried about a return of the “pingdemic”, but Sajid Javid, Health Secretary, dismissed them today. He said that the Omicron case count is still very low.
MPs voted yesterday to overwhelmingly support Mr Johnson’s new rule on self-isolation by 431 votes to 36, as 32 Tories rebelled to vote against.
The Tory backbenchers worry that, while the Government says the restrictions will need to be reviewed in the next three weeks ministers might subsequently take action to maintain them.
While the law regarding compulsory facemasks expires on December 20, the law regarding self-isolation is set to be in force until March 24, according to current law.
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 March 2022. It is why?
Ms. Throup acknowledged that Mr Harper had made a very good point, but she insisted that ‘we will no longer have these regulations in effect for any further than it is necessary.
Harper stated that while ministers made it clear that they would review the regulations in three weeks, the regulations were not time-limited. He also said that they amended another set regulations which do not expire until March next year.
‘Although minister tells us they won’t be enforced for one day more than is necessary, she must acknowledge that given the recent events and the way ministers dealt with the standards measures, there was a decrease in trust between backbenchers.
Politico was told by sources in government that March is due to a technical problem with legislation. They also stressed the importance of the three-week review.
Tory MPs fear a possible return to the pingdemic that decimated thousands in this country last year, as a result of the new rule regarding self-isolation.
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, seriously, 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.’
Today, Mr. Javid said that he was not concerned about the possibility of a ‘pingdemic’ as Omicron cases are still very low.
He told Sky News: ‘No, no I am not. The case numbers at this time are extremely low. I believe there are 22 confirmed cases in the UK at this time.
‘Now, that will go up, it will certainly go up, but the numbers are low, I hope it sort of stays that way.
‘So, 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.’