Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged the British public to be cautious and said they must self-isolate when told to do so as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted in England on Monday.
“Please, please, please, be cautious,” Johnson said in a video from his own period of self-isolation, which was announced earlier on Sunday.
“Go forward tomorrow into the next step with all the right prudence and respect for other people, for the risks that the disease continues to present and, above all, please please please when you’re asked to get that second jab … please come forward and do it.”
Earlier on Sunday, Johnson and finance minister Rishi Sunak said they will both self-isolate in line with national guidance, abandoning heavily criticised plans to take part in a pilot scheme that would have allowed them to continue working.
The U-turn comes a day after health minister Sajid Javid said he had tested positive for COVID-19 and at a time when the government’s coronavirus response is under intense scrutiny.
Almost all remaining restrictions in England will be lifted on Monday despite a surge in infections as ministers put their faith in the advanced vaccine programme.
Cases are rising by more than 50,000 a day and hundreds of thousands of Britons are being asked to self isolate for 10 days, causing havoc for employers and parents, prompting train cancellations and forcing some businesses to close their doors.
The government announced at 0700 GMT that Johnson and Sunak had been exposed to a person with COVID-19 and would take part in a trial scheme that allowed them to keep working instead of self-isolating.
But less than three hours later that decision had been reversed after a flurry of criticism from voters, political opponents and business owners.