Tory minister Scully accused of ‘bungling’ over covid app gaffe

Paul Scully, the Tory MP for Sutton and Cheam, was derided as “bungling” today over his failure to understand his own government’s laws on covid-19 and self-isolation.

Confused: Tory MP Paul Scully during his round of broadcast interviews today

In a live broadcast interview this morning, Scully claimed it was up to individuals to decide if they should self-isolate after being “pinged” by the NHS covid-19 app.

Thousands of firms have been sending workers home to self-isolate as a result of the “pingdemic” caused by soaring cases.

Scully’s unhelpful intervention is just the latest contradictory statement and U-turn from the Conservative government over the coronavirus pandemic, in which more than 128,000 people in Britain have died – one of the worst death rates from covid-19 in the world.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson was forced into self-isolation by public pressure over the weekend after he and Chancellor Rishi Sunak tried to avoid the quarantine period by claiming they were part of a non-existent pilot programme.

Today, Downing Street had to issue a statement, distancing itself from the comment made by business minister Scully and clarifying the correct position regarding the NHS app.

Scully, whose family still retains a controlling interest in the public relations firm he established in Croydon, told the radio interviewer, “It’s important to understand the rules. You have to legally isolate if you are on the… contacted by Test and Trace, or if you’re trying to claim isolation payments.

“The app is there to give… to allow you to make informed decisions.

Un ‘Appy: Tory minister Scully was slapped down by Downing Street this morning

“And I think by backing out of mandating a lot of things, we’re encouraging people to really get the data in their own hands to be able to make decisions on what’s best for them, whether they’re employer or an employee.”

Asked whether this meant people should or should not self-isolate if “pinged”, Scully said: “We want to encourage people to still use the app to be able to do the right thing, because we estimate it saves around 8,000 lives.” He then added that it was “up to individuals and employers”. Which is not the case.

It is not a legal requirement to self-isolate when pinged by the app, but it is strongly recommended. It is the law that people must quarantine if they are contacted by NHS Test and Trace.

Estimates suggest around 1.7million people are now in isolation, and figures showed 500,000 were pinged by the app in a week at the start of July.

Following Scully’s confused performance in his interview, Downing Street insisted it was “crucial” to self-isolate when told – and business should be supporting employees to do so. A No10 spokeswoman said: “Isolation remains the most important action people can take to stop the spread of the virus.

“Given the risk of having and spreading the virus when people have been in contact with someone with covid it is crucial people isolate when they are told to do so, either by NHS Test and Trace or by the NHS covid app.

“Businesses should be supporting employees to isolate, they should not be encouraging them to break isolation”.

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