The Scottish health secretary has described Boris Johnson’s announcement that all remaining Covid restrictions in England could end later this month as an “attempt to distract” from the Partygate scandal.
Humza Yousaf also claimed the Scottish Government has been given “no detail” of the UK Prime Minister’s “ill-thought-out policy”.
On Wednesday, the PM announced his intention to scrap the Covid legal duty later this month, as long as “encouraging trends” in the data continue.
He told MPs he will present his plan for “living with Covid” when Westminster returns from a short recess on February 21, with self-isolation rules dropped.
The current self-isolation regulations for England expire on March 24 but Johnson told MPs that “provided the current encouraging trends in the data continue, it is my expectation that we will be able to end the last domestic restrictions – including the legal requirement to self-isolate if you test positive – a full month early”.
Speaking to STV News, Yousaf said: “Let’s just be straight with people, the Prime Minister announced this ill-thought-out policy in order to deflect and distract from Partygate, from all of the scrutiny that he’s under in terms of the policy itself.
“We’ve had no detail of it.
“We were given no forewarning, the first time I saw it was in newspaper articles after PMQs.
“So we’re desperately asking for the detail because this could have huge implications for testing. It could have huge implications, of course, for cases rising right across the UK.
“We need the detail, but it doesn’t look like this policy has been thought out.
“Of course it worries me, over the last week we’ve had 500,000 positive cases right across the UK. Community transmission is still higher than any of us would like it to be.
“We know that this point, in this juncture, our fight against Covid is quite a fragile one.
“If today’s announcement by the PM means an end to self-isolation in England, then there’s clearly concern about what the implications are for testing.
“Because as you probably know, testing, of course, is procured in a four-nations basis.
“So we really need the detail of this policy.”
Following Wednesday’s announcement, Yousaf wrote on Twitter: “Let’s call it what it is, this announcement is an attempt to distract & deflect scrutiny over PM’s behaviour.
“We haven’t seen detail (doubt they have thought it through) and have asked for public health advice this decision was based on, unsurprisingly it hasn’t been forthcoming.”
Scotland’s chief medical officer was then accused of breaching the civil service code after retweeting Yousaf’s tweet – many claiming he was promoting an SNP political comment on social media.
Professor Sir Gregor Smith has since deleted the retweet and wrote: “Yesterday, I RT a message from the Cab Sec as an attempt to contribute to the debate on the isolation period.
“However, on reflection it is clear this contained political messaging alongside the public health info. I have therefore withdrawn the RT and apologise for passing it on.”
Boris Johnson has come under significant scrutiny in recent weeks regarding lockdown-breaking gatherings held at his residence during the pandemic.
An investigation by the Metropolitan Police into 12 gatherings that were held across Downing Street and Whitehall is already under way.
Earlier this week the PM was challenged again over parties at Downing Street after a new photograph emerged showing him standing next to an open bottle of alcohol.
The Daily Mirror published an image of Johnson flanked by three staff at Number 10, with the bottle on a table alongside snacks.