This article was originally published in the Mail on Sunday, 15/08/2021: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-9894229/SAJID-JAVID-Sick-see…
Just under six months ago, this Government published our nation’s roadmap to recovery, setting out how we’d return long-awaited freedoms once again.
Since then we’ve made massive progress, showing we can live with this virus, while averting the painful toll of deaths and hospitalisations that we saw in the previous waves.
Our phenomenal vaccine rollout has been the key to this – saving more than 84,000 lives and preventing 23 million infections in England alone.
And from tomorrow, I am delighted we’re able to take even more steps forward by reinforcing our collective defences and easing more restrictions that have governed our daily lives.
I know that the rules on self-isolation for close contacts have caused disruption for many; that it’s meant changing plans and missing precious moments with loved ones. I also know that although we’ve done everything in our power to allow exemptions for critical services, it’s caused disruption for businesses at a time when we all want to get the economy going again.
The British people have made huge sacrifices. By selflessly staying at home when asked to, you’ve saved lives and prevented our NHS from being overwhelmed. As hard as it’s been, the self-isolation of close contacts has been vital to breaking the chains of transmission and to thwarting a virus that thrives on the social contact that is so important to us all.
I didn’t come into Government to put curbs on who people can see and where they can go, and I look forward to the day when you don’t need to see me on TV so often talking about the pandemic. That is why I’m glad we’ve been able to ease restrictions over the past few weeks and do so in a way that reflects the huge benefits that the vaccines bring.
We’ve already been able to offer many people a well-deserved holiday abroad this summer by allowing fully vaccinated adults, and all children, to return from amber-list countries without quarantine – and we’ve cut the cost of NHS tests for international travel too.
From tomorrow, if you’re double- jabbed or under 18 you will no longer need to self-isolate as a close contact of a Covid-19 case. Instead, you’ll be advised to take a PCR test. Of course, if you test positive you’ll still need to self-isolate, whether or not you’ve had both doses.
This more tailored set of rules have been made possible thanks to our vaccination programme.
Almost nine in ten adults in the UK have had a first dose, and over three-quarters have the protection of both doses. But we mustn’t take our foot off the accelerator because we know the best way to protect these hard-fought freedoms is to get as many jabs in arms as possible.
We’re planning a major initiative to give booster jabs to our most vulnerable ahead of the winter, subject to expert advice, and we’re also expanding our current vaccination programme, so we can make our protective wall even stronger.
We've seen encouraging uptake among young adults, and more than 70 per cent of people aged 18 to 29 in England have had their first dose. Now we’ve expanded the offer to 16- and 17-year-olds.