British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will spend 10 days self-isolating after contact with a confirmed coronavirus case, his office said Sunday — reversing an earlier announcement that he would not have to quarantine.
Johnson's office said Sunday that the prime minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak were both alerted overnight by England's test-and-trace phone app. He had a meeting on Friday with Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday. Javid, who has been fully vaccinated, says he is experiencing mild symptoms.
People who are notified through the app are supposed to self-isolate, although it is not a legal requirement. Contacts of positive cases are usually advised to self-isolate for 10 days.
Johnson's office initially said the prime minister and Sunak would instead take a daily coronavirus test as part of an alternative system being piloted in some workplaces, including government offices.
That plan was reversed less than three hours later after an outcry from voters, political opponents and business owners over apparent special treatment for politicians. Downing Street said Johnson would self-isolate at Chequers, the prime minister's country residence northwest of London, and "will not be taking part in the testing pilot." It said Sunak also would self-isolate.
Johnson was seriously ill with COVID-19 in April 2020, spending three nights hospitalized in intensive care.
His spell in isolation comes as his government prepares to lift remaining lockdown measures on Monday. Nightclubs can reopen in England for the first time since March 2020, sports and entertainment venues can admit capacity crowds and face masks are no longer mandatory indoors.
But the government is urging people to be cautious, as cases surge because of the highly transmissible delta variant of the virus first identified in India. More than 54,000 new infections were confirmed on Saturday, the highest daily total since January. Hospitalizations and deaths are also rising but remain far lower than at previous infection peaks thanks to vaccination. More than two-thirds of British adults have had both shots of a vaccine.
In a video message from his country residence, Johnson said it is "the right moment" for the change of rules but pleaded with the public to take a cautious approach.
Like so many people I've been pinged by NHS Test and Trace as I have been in contact with someone with COVID-19, and I will be self-isolating until Monday 26th July. <a href="https://t.co/X57gDpwDqe">pic.twitter.com/X57gDpwDqe</a>
"Go forward tomorrow into the next step with all the right prudence and respect for other people, for the risks that the disease continues to present and, above all, please, please, please when you're asked to get that second jab … please come forward and do it," he said.
British officials are looking nervously at Israel and the Netherlands, both of which opened up society after vaccinating most of the population. Both countries have recently reimposed some restrictions after new infection surges.
What's happening across Canada
As of 11:15 a.m. ET on Sunday, Canada had reported 1,423,099 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 4,713 considered active. The country's COVID-19 death toll stood at 26,498. More than 44.8 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered so far across the country, according to a CBC News tally.
In the Atlantic provinces, Prince Edward Island is marking its first day of letting in fully vaccinated Canadians from outside the Maritimes without the need for them to self-isolate after arriving on the Island. The province currently has no known active cases of COVID-19.
New Brunswick reported one new case on Sunday, while Nova Scotia reported three new cases.
In its last update on Friday, Newfoundland and Labrador did not report any new cases, and its active cases stood at 46, nearly all of them aboard two ships anchored in Conception Bay.
Ontario reported 177 new cases and six new deaths on Sunday. The province has moved into Stage 3 of its reopening plan, which allows for indoor dining and drinking at restaurants, bars and nightclubs.
As those measures ease, a patchwork of hospital visitor restrictions remain in place across Ontario, and the more restrictive policies of some hospitals have left some patients' families frustrated.
In Quebec, the province is holding a lottery for $2 million in cash and scholarships in an effort to encourage more people to get their COVID-19 vaccine.
As of Friday, when the lottery was announced, the province's goal of vaccinating 75 per cent of Quebecers aged 18-34 with their first dose this summer was short by about 80,000 people. Across all eligible age groups, 82 per cent of Quebecers had received their first shot.
Other provinces are taking a similar tack to encourage more people to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Alberta is offering $3 million in lottery winnings and additional rewards, such as travel packages and outdoor prizes including lifetime hunting licences. Meanwhile, Manitoba is giving away nearly $2 million in cash and scholarships.
British Columbia, which lifted most of its COVID-19 restrictions on Canada Day, is set to further loosen measures for long-term care homes. Starting Monday, visitors will no longer need to schedule their visits in advance, and there will no longer be a limit on the number of visitors each resident can have, provided the visitors are fully vaccinated.
In the North, the territories continue to lead the country in percentage of fully vaccinated eligible residents, which stands at 81.5 per cent in Yukon, 77.3 per cent in the Northwest Territories and 63 per cent in Nunavut.
What's happening around the world
As of Sunday afternoon, more than 190.1 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported, according to a tool from U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University, which has been collecting coronavirus data from nations around the world. The reported death toll stood at more than four million.
In Africa, health officials warn that COVID-19 cases are surging in Senegal as millions in the West African nation prepare for the Tabaski holiday. New confirmed cases have risen in just weeks from dozens a day to a record of 738 on Friday, and the Health Ministry says they then nearly doubled overnight to 1,366 on Saturday.
President Macky Sall and his cabinet are limiting public gatherings and travel and urging the public to continue wearing masks and frequently sanitize their hands.
In the Americas, Mexico's Health Ministry on Saturday reported 12,631 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 225 more deaths. The number of daily new infections has surged this past week to levels not seen since February.
In Asia, the Thai government on Sunday announced plans for a tighter lockdown in Bangkok and high-risk provinces next week, suspending most domestic flights and expanding curfew areas after the country reported a third straight day of record COVID-19 case numbers.
South Korea on Sunday sent military aircraft to replace the entire 301-member crew of a navy destroyer on an anti-piracy mission off East Africa after nearly 70 of them tested positive for the coronavirus, officials said.
The Vietnamese government has put the entire southern region in a two-week lockdown starting at midnight as confirmed COVID-19 cases exceeded 3,000 for the third day in a row.
In Europe, daily new caseloads of confirmed COVID-19 infections are surging in Italy, and health experts say it's clear that nationwide celebrations by Italian fans after European Championship soccer matches are a significant factor.
Thousands of fans jammed Rome's streets on July 12 to cheer an open-topped bus tour by Italy's national team, which won Euro 2020 by beating England the night before.
Dr. Franco Locatelli, a pediatric specialist who advises Italy's government on anti-pandemic health measures, told La Repubblica daily in an interview on Sunday that "the gatherings and the crowding favoured the viral circulation." Locatelli said the average age of infected people in Italy is now 28.
With files from CBC News, The Canadian Press and Reuters
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