James Forsyth James Forsyth

Why the government’s biggest fear is mass isolation

(Getty Images)

There is growing nervousness in Whitehall about what the number of people having to self-isolate might mean for various key industries. This, rather than hospitals being overwhelmed, is fast becoming the biggest worry among policymakers.

This concern is leading to talks about what can be done to prevent key workers from having to isolate. I understand that one option under discussion is extending the exemption on NHS staff and allowing other critical workers to test rather than self-isolate earlier than 16 August, from which double-jabbed people will not have to self-isolate if in contact with someone with Covid. But the problem is defining who is, and isn’t, a critical worker. Remember the difficulties in working out which pupils, as children of key workers, were eligible to be in school during lockdown.

All this needs to be seen against the backdrop of rapidly rising cases. The scenes from nightclubs last night, predictable as they were, are another cause of concern in government – particularly given the Dutch experience.

The last-minute attempt to persuade nightclubs to use Covid certification has fallen flat; the vast majority are not doing so. This is leading to some in Whitehall arguing that the rules should be changed so that nightclubs have to require certification. If the number of cases continues to rise while vaccination rates for 18 to 24-year-olds remain relatively low, this will become an increasing likely policy response.

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