Matt Hancock has said he will self-isolate at home until Sunday after being ordered to by the NHS Covid app.
The health secretary, who was infected with coronavirus in March last year, said on Tuesday said he had been in close contact with someone who had tested positive.
“Last night I was pinged by the NHS coronavirus app, so that means I’ll be self-isolating at home, not leaving the house at all until Sunday,” Hancock said.
“This self-isolation is perhaps the most important part of all the social distancing because I know from the app I’ve been in close contact with somebody who has tested positive and this is how we break the chains of transmission.”
Hancock, who hosted a press conference in Downing Street on Monday afternoon, added: “So you must follow these rules like I’m going to. I’ve got to work from home for the next six days, and together, by doing this, by following this, and all the other panoply of rules that we’ve had to put in place, we can get through this and beat this virus.”
It comes as new figures showed an estimated one in eight people in England had had Covid-19 by December last year, up from one in 11 in November.
Antibody data on infection in private households suggests that one in 10 in Wales had also been infected by December, alongside one in 13 in Northern Ireland and one in 11 in Scotland.
The figures come from the Office for National Statistic’s Covid-19 Infection Survey in partnership with the University of Oxford, University of Manchester, Public Health England and Wellcome Trust.
Last week, the Medical Research Council (MRC) Biostatistics Unit Covid-19 Working Group at Cambridge University said it believed the proportion of the population who have ever been infected was 30% in London, 26% in the North West and 21% in the North East.
This dropped to 13% in the South East and 8% in the South West.
It came as some family doctors continue to express their frustration about the rollout of vaccines across the UK.
With more than half of the over-80s and half of elderly care home residents having received the jab, ministers have now given the go-ahead to begin vaccinating the next priority groups – the over-70s and the clinically extremely vulnerable.
On Monday, Hancock acknowledged that some parts of the country had made better progress than others in vaccinating those in the top priority group, but said more supplies of the vaccine are being pumped to areas that have fallen behind.
He said: “We’re prioritising the supply of the vaccine into those parts of the country that need to complete the over-80s”, adding: “But we don’t want to stop the areas that have effectively done that job already.”