Participants in the daily contact testing study selected “at random”

Government press release

June 4, 2021

Facts

The government launched a pilot scheme allowing people who have been selected to take part in the study to avoid self-isolation. The government’s press release on the daily testing pilot says that participants will be selected “at random.”

Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak were pinged by NHS Track and Trace after Sajid Javid tested positive but Downing Street said that the pair would not be self-isolating as they would be taking part in the pilot programme.

Number 10 said: "They will be participating in the daily contact testing pilot to allow them to continue to work from Downing Street. They will be conducting only essential government business during this period."

Three hours later, Downing Street U-turned on this, with a spokesperson saying: “The Prime Minister has been contacted by NHS test and trace to say he is a contact of someone with Covid. He was at Chequers when contacted by test and trace and will remain there to isolate. He will not be taking part in the testing pilot.”

“He will continue to conduct meetings with ministers remotely. The chancellor has also been contacted and will also isolate as required and will not be taking part in the pilot.”

While Sunak tweeted: “Whilst the test and trace pilot is fairly restrictive, allowing only essential government business, I recognise that even the sense that the rules aren’t the same for everyone is wrong. To that end I’ll be self-isolating as normal and not taking part in the pilot.”

Verdict

The government launched a Covid pilot scheme allowing people who have been selected to take part in the study to avoid self-isolation. The government insisted that participants would be selected “at random.” Downing Street then announced that both Johnson and Sunak would be taking part in the pilot scheme, meaning they could avoid self-isolation. The statistical probability that both the Chancellor and Prime Minister had been selected at random was close to zero. 

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