A PILOT scheme allowing contacts of people who have tested positive for Covid-19 to avoid self-isolating has been at the centre of a furious backlash against the Prime Minister and Chancellor.

Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak initially said they were taking part in the pilot after the NHS alerted them they were close contacts of newly appointed Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who tested positive for the virus last week.

However, after a huge backlash against the move, Johnson and Sunak said they wouldn’t be taking part in the pilot and would quarantine.

But what is the pilot at the centre of the row? Here were have a look at the scheme and what it hopes to achieve.

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What is the new pilot scheme?

The workplace pilot scheme will assess the effectiveness of daily contact tracing for those who have been in contact with people testing positive for coronavirus.

The study is being led by Public Health England and NHS Test and Trace, according to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).

Why is it being carried out?

It is hoped the scheme will provide evidence to help reduce the length of time that contacts of Covid- positive people need to self-isolate for.

The DHSC said reducing self-isolation periods would prevent individuals missing work and doing day-to-day activities, helping to reopen the economy and society.

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How does it work?

The DHSC said close contacts of people with Covid-19 will be contacted by phone and sent seven days’ worth of lateral flow tests.

All contacts will be required to perform a test every morning for seven days.

Those who develop no symptoms and also test negative will be exempt from self-isolation on that day and can leave their homes to carry out essential activities, but will still need to take another test the following day to check they remain exempt.


Who is involved in the workplace pilot?

The scheme is being piloted with a variety of selected organisations from the private and public sectors.

Currently, 20 organisations are involved, including Network Rail, TFL, Heathrow and Border Force, and Downing Street.

Can anyone apply to be involved?

The DHSC said no further organisations would be invited to take part in the scheme until further data from the preliminary trials was returned.

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What is the current situation for most people?

Currently, anybody who has been notified through NHS Test and Trace as a contact of someone who has tested positive for coronavirus must self-isolate for 10 days.

So what’s caused the political row?

On Sunday Number 10 announced that Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak had been contacted by NHS Test and Trace, but would not be isolating as they were taking part in the pilot.

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The news caused a furious backlash online from members of the Labour Party, including shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth and deputy leader Angela Rayner, who accused the Government of being “above the law”.

But in a dramatic turnaround just hours later, Downing Street said the men would be self-isolating rather than taking part in a daily contact testing pilot.