The situation has raised further questions about the government’s plan to lift restrictions on Monday, even as cases have surged to more than 50,000 a day, largely because of the highly transmissible Delta variant. British news media have called July 19 “Freedom Day,” but for thousands of people who are either infected or have been in contact with an infected person, that phrase will ring hollow.
Under the health service’s pilot program, Mr. Johnson and Mr. Sunak would have continued to work at Downing Street, which has been equipped with facilities to conduct daily tests. They would also still have been required to self-isolate when not at work. Mr. Johnson and his wife, Carrie, live in an apartment on the upper floors of 11 Downing Street, adjacent to his office. That building also houses Mr. Sunak’s office.
The news of the testing arrangement brought immediate criticism, with some pointing out that it was only the latest example of senior officials playing by different rules. By 11 a.m. in London, three hours after the original statement, both men backed off.
The prime minister was at his country residence, Chequers, when he was notified by the N.H.S. and will now stay there to isolate. “He will not be taking part in the pilot program,” a spokesman said in a statement.
Mr. Sunak said on Twitter that “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,” he wrote, “I’ll be self isolating as normal and not taking part in the pilot.”
Mr. Johnson survived a serious bout of Covid in April 2020, when the virus first swept through Downing Street. At that time, he was admitted to an intensive care unit, leaving the government under the temporary direction of the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab. Mr. Sunak is not known to have ever contracted the coronavirus.
Mr. Johnson was forced to isolate again in November after being exposed to a Conservative lawmaker, Lee Anderson, who had developed Covid symptoms.