SCOTLAND has been there, done that, and donned the washed-out T-shirt when it comes to starting the summer break. England catches up this week when schools and MPs head for the exits. Alas, if the Sunday politics shows are any guide, that giddy, end-of-term feeling is going to be in short supply.

It was not supposed to be like this. Here we were on the eve of so-called “Freedom Day”. Normality was meant to be coming home. No more masks (but not everywhere), no more working from home (but not everywhere), no more social distancing (you know the drill).

READ MORE: Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak u-turn on self-isolation after row over Test and Trace contact

To mark the occasion, England’s new Health Secretary was to tour the studios. Then came Saturday afternoon and the news that Sajid Javid had Covid. The only place he was heading was into self-isolation.

What, though, of those he had been in contact with recently? The Test and Trace system swung into action, with a certain Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak among those “pinged” and told to isolate.

Hold the mobile phone, though. Just before  Sky News’ Trevor Phillips went on air at 8.30am on Sunday, Downing Street said the Prime Minister and Chancellor were part of a special pilot scheme that gave them immunity from isolation. Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove, you will recall, had benefited from the same arrangement after a trip to Portugal to watch football.

Was this not yet another example of “one rule for them, another for the rest of us?”, aka playing the Barnard Castle card? That was the obvious question to ask Mr Javid’s stand-in, the Housing and Communities Minister Robert Jenrick, and quite the answer he had, too.

The fact that the PM and Chancellor had been pinged showed the system was working, said the minister. That they were then excused isolation proved the pilot scheme was similarly fit for purpose. 

“Outrageous”, said Victoria Newton, editor-in-chief of The Sun, when asked during the paper review on The Andrew Marr Show what she thought of the exemption granted to ministers. She was not alone in raising a pong about the pings with no consequences.

READ MORE: England Covid rules: What is changing on ‘freedom day’ in England?

Jonathan Ashworth, shadow secretary for health, made similar hay, and called the trial a “VIP system” of which hardworking parents and other staff told to stay home could only dream. Business leaders were unimpressed, with Iceland managing director Richard Walker saying: “Shame the hundreds of Iceland staff who’ve been pinged can’t avoid self-isolation.”

Mr Jenrick had been stuck defending an indefensible position. Sure enough, within two hours, before he had even made it home again from the studios, the Prime Minister and Chancellor had U-turned. The raising of a pong about the pings had resulted in pangs of regret and they would be isolating after all. Mr Sunak tweeted: “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.”

One would have to be familiar with the Fast And Furious series of films to find a U-turn executed at more dizzying speed. Then again, Fast And Furious might be flattering Downing Street on this occasion. Dominic Cummings’s description of his former boss as a wonky trolley, veering from one side of the aisle to another, seemed more accurate.

READ MORE: Boris Johnson insists he only 'briefly' considered ducking Covid quarantine

So off Mr Johnson goes to Chequers. There are worse places to self-isolate. This was a mess on the UK Government’s part, made worse by having ample time to formulate a position. Conservative backbenchers have been muttering about a lack of political nous in Downing Street – the failure to win the Chesham and Amersham by-election being cited as one illustration of this. Now the complainers have another, even more embarrassing, example to wield. Just as well for the Prime Minister that the summer recess begins on Thursday.

Mr Javid tested positive for Covid even though he had been double jabbed. As scientists have been keen to stress, vaccination has weakened the link between infections and serious illness but not severed it. Someone else who found this out the hard way was Marr. In an interview published on Saturday, the Scots broadcaster spoke in detail about how the illness had felled him.

Marr, who had two Pfizer jabs, believes he picked up the Delta strain of the virus at the G7 summit in Cornwall last month.

“I’m still here and I was not hospitalised,” he told the Daily Mail, “so by that definition I’m a vaccine success.”

His advice for others: be careful. “Like Government ministers I’d been using that glib phrase ‘mild to moderate symptoms’ when talking about people who had been double vaccinated getting Covid, but it can be really, really horrible.”

Six lateral flow tests came back negative, before the more accurate PCR test confirmed his fears.

His symptoms included headaches, queasiness, shivering, a sore throat, sweats and muscle ache. “The last time I’d felt like that was 25 years ago when I had hepatitis.”
His worry now is that he has been left with long Covid. “I’m monitoring myself all the time for brain fog, but there’s no sign of it yet,” said the presenter, who turns 62 at the end of the month.

Having recently signed a new contract with, Marr will be back with his titular show on the BBC in September.