Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock faced accusations they had failed to follow their own advice on social distancing after both tested positive for coronavirus.
The Prime Minister and Health Secretary were pictured at close quarters in the Commons in recent days – well within the advised 6ft limit.
Just hours after they confirmed they had the virus, Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty, who has been the face of the nation’s coronavirus response, revealed he too had symptoms.
Professor Whitty said he would be isolating at home for seven days having experienced symptoms ‘compatible’ with the disease on Thursday night.
In fact the Chief Medical Officer – who is also a consultant doctor – had even advised the Prime Minister in person earlier that evening after Mr Johnson complained of coronavirus-like symptoms.
It is not known whether Professor Whitty examined Mr Johnson or took his temperature, but he is unlikely to have been wearing protective clothing.
In another frantic day of developments in the battle against coronavirus:
- US President Donald Trump wished Mr Johnson a ‘speedy recovery’ as the two leaders spoke on the phone;
- Mr Gove revealed a new alliance between businesses, research institutes and universities will boost testing capacity so NHS workers will know if they have coronavirus with testing starting next week;
- NHS chief executive Simon Stevens said there are now 33,000 beds available nationwide for coronavirus patients;
- He also revealed two new Nightingale hospitals will be set up in Birmingham and Manchester in addition to the one in London;
- A council is facing a furious backlash after targeting members of the public with drones, as lawyers warned that police are ‘unlawfully’ trying to restrict people travelling to isolated spots to exercise and walk their dogs;
- There are demands for the government to go further to help millions of self-employed after Mr Sunak admitted a bailout for income support will not be up and running until June;
- Buckingham Palace has said the Queen remains in ‘good health’ and has not seen the PM since March 11;
- UK supermarkets said they will use a government database of 1.5 million vulnerable shoppers to help prioritise delivery slots.
Boris Johnson pictured within six-foot of Health Secretary Matt Hancock before a press conference at No10 Downing Street on March 12. Both have tested positive for the virus and chief medical officer Chris Whitty, pictured at the top of the stairs, has symptoms
Boris Johnson pictured announcing to the UK that he has tested positive for coronavirus in a video shared to social media
The UK saw coronavirus cases jump by 2,921 on Friday, the largest increase so far
A Downing Street spokesman suggested it was unlikely the Chief Medical Officer contracted the disease from the Prime Minister, as the first signs usually take several days to appear.
Duncan Selbie, chief executive of Public Health England, revealed on Thursday he was self-isolating with symptoms, and several Department of Health advisers are also thought to have the virus.
PM’s pregnant partner Carrie thought to be in self-isolation
Concerns have been raised for Boris Johnson’s pregnant fiancee Carrie Symonds following his infection.
Miss Symonds, 32, who is due in late May or early June, is understood to have moved out of Downing Street to the Prime Minister’s country retreat at Chequers in Buckinghamshire.
But it is not known whether she was in contact with him while he was symptomatic.
Crucially, Miss Symonds is understood to be in the third trimester and beyond the 28 weeks of pregnancy at which doctors say women should take extra precautions to avoid the virus.
It led to fears for his pregnant girlfriend Carrie Symonds. They were last seen together on Saturday. Ms Symonds is thought to be self-isolating in Chequers, Kent
The data on how Covid-19 affects expectant mothers is limited and health officials are not sure whether they are more likely to get serious complications as they are with flu.
As a precaution, the Government is advising pregnant women to take social distancing measures very seriously.
And the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists urges those beyond 28 weeks to be ‘extremely careful’. Despite the limited research, there is no suggestion coronavirus increases the risk of miscarriage or stillbirth.
But pregnancy does weaken a woman’s immune system.
This means she will be more at risk of catching the virus and potentially contracting a more severe form.
Dr Michael Head, of the University of Southampton said: ‘It is reassuring that so far there have been few noted complications during pregnancy with Covid-19. However, the health services will be cautious.’
Downing Street yesterday implied Miss Symonds was not living with the Prime Minister at present, although they did not confirm whether she only moved out when he tested positive.
That the virus has infected so many senior figures who are co-ordinating the nation’s response will raise concerns policies to contain its spread will be impeded.
A Department of Health source said Professor Whitty only had mild symptoms and would still be coordinating the nation’s response in self-isolation at home.
Writing on Twitter yesterday, Professor Whitty said: ‘After experiencing symptoms compatible with Covid-19 last night, in line with the guidance, I will be self-isolating at home for the next seven days. I will be continuing to advise the Government on the medical response to coronavirus, supported by my deputies.’
Mr Hancock developed a temperature and sore throat on Wednesday evening – just hours after he had been in close contact with the Prime Minister.
As recently as Wednesday afternoon, he was pictured next to Mr Johnson and Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, who is considered more at risk from coronavirus as he has Type 1 diabetes, shortly after Prime Minister’s Questions.Mr Johnson, meanwhile, was photographed clapping for NHS staff on Thursday night with Chancellor Rishi Sunak outside Downing Street, when he is likely to have had symptoms, although kept a distance apart.
In recent weeks Mr Johnson has continued to meet his Cabinet and key advisers, including Professor Whitty, while urging the public to work from home wherever possible. Although the Prime Minister and Health Secretary have both tested positive, the Chief Medical Officer has not himself undertaken a test.
Tests are only available to Cabinet ministers if they show symptoms, which raises the possibility that others may have contracted the disease and spread it without realising they were ill.
A spokesman for Mr Sunak, who is not self-isolating, said he has not had any symptoms and therefore has not been tested.
Downing Street has previously confirmed that Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab would stand in if Mr Johnson was too unwell to continue leading the nation.
If Mr Raab also became ill, the Prime Minister has the power to delegate responsibility to any of his ministers.
The government faced a mauling yesterday afternoon after it failed to stop the senior figures in the UK’s fight against coronavirus from catching the deadly disease.
Michael Gove, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, was forced to defend the government’s approach to the crisis after it hit hard at the heart of Westminster as he took part in the now daily Number 10 coronavirus press conference.
It was suggested to Mr Gove that ministers had at best been ‘careless’ and at worst ‘negligent’ by allowing the killer bug to infect Mr Johnson and Mr Hancock amid criticism of the government’s testing efforts.
But Mr Gove argued the fact they had caught coronavirus showed it ‘does not discriminate’ and ‘we are all at risk’ as he said: ‘The fact that the virus is no respecter of individuals, whoever they are, is one of the reasons why we do need to have strict social distancing measures.’
It was announced tonight that all NHS frontline staff will start to be tested next week in a move aimed at boosting the workforce and allow those self-isolating with illnesses other than coronavirus to return to work.
But Downing Street said senior ministers, officials and aides will only be tested if they develop a fever or persistent cough, despite the two positive tests and Prof Whitty’s symptoms.
Mr Gove insisted that was the right approach, telling reporters: ‘People are tested if they are symptomatic and those members of the sort of central effort in helping to defeat the virus who do show symptoms are appropriately tested.’
The chief executive of Public Health England, Duncan Selbie, revealed on Thursday that he would be self-isolating after experiencing symptoms of the virus
The Prime Minister is isolating in an ensuite bedroom above No11 Downing Street after he was diagnosed with coronavirus
Boris Johnson was outside No10 last night applauding NHS workers who are combating the virus, in a national show of appreciation – but kept his distance from Chancellor Rishi Sunak
Mr Johnson was in the Commons for PMQs on Wednesday, raising fears other politicians might have been infected
Dominic Raab will take over if Boris Johnson is incapacitated by coronavirus
Dominic Raab will take over if Boris Johnson is incapacitated by coronavirus, No 10 has said.
The Foreign Secretary is also First Secretary of State – an honorary title reflecting his seniority.
It is understood Mr Raab has not met the Prime Minister for a week and has dialled into ‘war cabinet’ meetings from outside, meaning it is unlikely he has caught the disease from colleagues.
But if he goes down with the disease as well, it is unclear who takes over because the British Government has no US-style order of succession.
If the worst came to the worst, it is likely that Chancellor Rishi Sunak or Michael Gove, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, would take over.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock would also be a candidate but is at present in isolation after testing positive for the disease.
No 10 has said that beyond Mr Raab, there is no formal list and Mr Johnson can appoint whoever he wants. Whitehall sources say measures have been put in place to prevent contact between the Prime Minister and Mr Raab in case the latter needs to take over.
The Foreign Secretary is currently concentrating on getting hundreds of stranded Britons back home from around the world.
Sources say he has not begun to think about being in charge because Mr Johnson has only mild symptoms and is expected to get better.
If Mr Raab became ill, Mr Gove is the most experienced candidate, having been in Cabinet for a decade. He stood in for the Prime Minister at yesterday’s No 10 press conference.
In the US, the presidential line of succession starts with the vice-president and House speaker and there is always a named ‘designated survivor’.
It came as the UK’s coronavirus death toll jumped by a third to 759 after officials announced 181 more victims of the killer infection in the biggest daily rise yet. Health chiefs also confirmed almost 15,000 Britons have now caught the virus.
The PM is now self-isolating in Number 11 Downing Street but has insisted he will continue to lead the nation’s fight against coronavirus with aides leaving work and food at his door for him to pick up. Mr Hancock is also continuing to work as normal from home with both men now reliant on video conferencing.
The government’s own guidance states people must self-isolate for 14 days if anyone in their ‘household’ develops symptoms, but no senior figures, including top adviser Dominic Cummings and Mr Sunak, are thought to be going into isolation. Mr Cummings was seen making a hasty exit from Downing Street today carrying a rucksack.
Mr Johnson, Mr Hancock and Prof Whitty have been three of the main public figures in the fight against coronavirus so far.
The fourth main figure, Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, said this afternoon that he had no coronavirus symptoms and had therefore not been tested and ‘will continue following guidelines including social distancing and hand washing’.
In his video message posted this morning, Mr Johnson said: ‘Hi folks I want to bring you up to speed on something that is happening today which is that I have developed mild symptoms of coronavirus, that is to say a temperature and a persistent cough, and on the advice of the chief medical officer I have taken a test.
‘That has come out positive so I am working from home, I am self isolating. That is entirely the right thing to do but be in no doubt that I can continue thanks to the wizardry of modern technology to communicate with all my top team to lead the national fight back against coronavirus.’
London is regarded as the engine of the outbreak in the UK, and many at Westminster have been struck down with symptoms.
Health minister Nadine Dorries was the first confirmed MP case, and has since recovered and returned to work.
Prince Charles was confirmed as infected with coronavirus earlier this week after he too was tested.
Sir Simon Stevens, NHS chief executive, said the tests for staff would initially be focused on those working in intensive care, A&E, GP practices and staff running ambulance services.
Speaking at a press conference at Downing Street, Sir Simon said: ‘I can say that today we can announce we will be rolling out staff testing across the NHS, beginning next week and starting with the critical care nurses, other staff in intensive care, emergency departments, ambulance services, GPs.
‘And as the testing volumes increase, we want to widen that to a wider range of essential public service workers, including our social care services, as well as continuing of course with our patient testing which is so vital.’
Chancellor Rishi Sunak yesterday took questions from the media alongside the deputy chief medical officer as he unveiled a bail out for the self-employed
Mr Johnson chaired Cabinet by video conference on Tuesday – but senior officials including Cabinet Secretary Mark Sedwill were still close to the PM
The Government has confirmed the service will be free and would ‘help end the uncertainty of whether NHS staff need to stay at home’.
Those who test negative for coronavirus will be able to return to work, said the Department for Health and Social Care.
Seb James, UK and Ireland managing director of Boots, said the high street chain would assist in delivering tests but confirmed they would not be done in-store.
‘We will work with the NHS to recruit trained professionals – both Boots colleagues and from the wider community,’ he said.
‘I am sure there will be many trained healthcare clinicians and students who will step forward to support our dedicated NHS colleagues.
‘Locations are being defined but will be spread across the UK – they will not however be in Boots stores, allowing our colleagues to focus on supporting our customers and patients.’
Rico Back, the Royal Mail Group’s chief executive, said: ‘We will safely deliver these vital tests, a key step forward in the nation’s battle against the virus.’
The PM’s video statement in full
‘Hi folks I want to bring you up to speed on something that is happening today which is that I have developed mild symptoms of coronavirus, that is to say a temperature and a persistent cough, and on the advice of the chief medical officer I have taken a test.
‘That has come out positive so I am working from home, I am self isolating. That is entirely the right thing to do but be in no doubt that I can continue thanks to the wizardry of modern technology to communicate with all my top team to lead the national fight back against coronavirus.
‘I want to thank everybody who is involved. I want to thank of course above all our amazing NHS staff. It was very moving last night to join in that national clap for the NHS. But it is not just the NHS, it’s our police, it’s our social care workers, teachers, everybody who works in schools, DWP staff.
‘An amazing national effort by the public services but also by every member of the British public who is volunteering – an incredible response, 600,000 people have volunteered to take part in a great national effort to protect people from the consequences of coronavirus.
‘I want to thank you. I want to thank everybody who is working to keep our country going through this epidemic and we will get through it.
‘The way we are going to get through it is of course by applying the measures that you will have heard so much about and the more effectively we all comply with those measures, the faster our country will come through this epidemic and the faster we will bounce back.
‘So thank you to everybody who is doing what I am doing, working from home to stop the spread of the virus from household to household. That is the way we are going to win. We are doing to beat it and we are going to beat it together.
‘Stay at home. Protect the NHS. And save lives.’
The prisoner of Downing St: While Carrie Symonds is in Chequers with Dilyn the dog, Boris Johnson is marooned above the shop, his meals left outside his door – as he juggles a national crisis with anxiety for his unborn child, writes RICHARD KAY
By Richard Kay for the Daily Mail
From the plumped up pillows of his king-size bed, through the tall windows above the famous rose garden, he can look down on the vast emptiness of Horse Guards Parade. Closer to home he can see the couriers bringing government papers, the delivery men with their supplies and the to-ing and fro-ing of visitors.
But while there is urgency and vitality all around him, Boris Johnson, locked in the biggest peace time crisis in British history, is now a prisoner of Downing Street – isolated from his loved ones, his ministers and his staff.
Within hours of the diagnosis that he was suffering from coronavirus, the first world leader to contract the illness, the Prime Minister had quarantined himself in the spacious flat above Number 11.
With its five bedrooms, playroom and drawing rooms that lead off the double-height atrium, there is plenty of space.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday morning he had tested positive for coronavirus. He is self-isolating in an ensuite bedroom with a ground-floor study for seven days
Health secretary Matt Hancock also revealed yesterday he had tested positive for the virus
He, however, is confining himself to a single bedroom with an en-suite bathroom and ground-floor study which – until Thursday night – was the office of Chancellor Rishi Sunak.
The confirmation that Mr Johnson had Covid-19 came at midnight, following a swab test after he complained during the afternoon of ‘feeling rough’.
But last night, as the Government response to the pandemic deepened with the news that Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Chief Medical Officer of England Chris Whitty also had the virus, there was frenzy over just how many people the PM had come into contact with.
While the focus was inevitably on those senior aides and ministers working closely with Mr Johnson, there was special concern over two figures – the Queen and the Prime Minister’s pregnant fiancée, Carrie Symonds.
He last saw the Queen, who is at Windsor, on March 11. But with the Prince of Wales also testing positive for Covid-19, royal physicians are understandably edgy.
The whereabouts of Carrie, 32, are not clear, but No10 sources dropped a sizeable hint that she was no longer on the premises when they briefed that the PM would be self-isolating for seven days, rather than the 14 recommended for those sharing their lives with family and friends.
Boris Johnson pictured on the Downing Street stairs with Matt Hancock and chief medical officer Chris Whitty, who has also tested positive for the virus
Fears were also raised for the Queen’s health (pictured above holding her weekly audience with the prime minister via telephone on March 25). However, she last met the Prime Minister for an audience on March 11
Carrie herself also suggested she had moved out after posting on her Instagram account a photograph of her with the couple’s dog Dilyn, a Jack Russell cross, with the caption: ‘Self-isolating isn’t so bad with this one’.
The picture may have been taken at Chequers, the PM’s official residence, or Chevening, in Kent: another government home the couple have used in recent times.
‘It would make sense for her to be at one of those addresses,’ said an aide. ‘There are staff, grounds to stroll in and plenty of fresh air.’
The question is: when did Miss Symonds, whose baby is due in early June, leave Downing Street?
The couple were together last week to celebrate her 32nd birthday, and visited Chequers for part of the day on Saturday.
Even if she was not there when Boris fell ill, the couple will naturally be anxious as Covid-19 seemingly has a typical incubation period of several days. Aides declined to say whether she too had been tested.
For a larger-than-life, hyperactive and gregarious figure like Mr Johnson, the ramifications of the restrictions on his movements will be profound. Ever since the crisis took its deadly grip on the country, No10 has been a bunker on a war-time footing, with staff working round the clock and Boris standing firmly at the helm.
Within minutes of complaining to Professor Whitty that he was feeling unwell, the PM began practising social distancing.
When he and the Chancellor appeared on their respective doorsteps to join the national applause for the NHS on Thursday night, they remained several feet apart.
But when did he go into self-isolation?
The domestic arrangements of the two flats above Numbers 10 and 11 cannot have helped. While Boris works at No10, he uses the flat at No11, just as David Cameron and his family did.
Mr Sunak works from No 11 but because his wife and children have remained at their family home, the accommodation at No10 is empty. It is thought that the PM’s self-isolation began after he received the results of his test.
Boris Johnson pictured conducting his weekly audience with the Queen via telephone on March 25. He has now self isolated in No11 Downing Street
Carrie Symonds pictured with the couple’s dog Dilyn arriving at a count in Uxbridge, west London, during the UK’s general election in December
Pictured above is No10 and No11 Downing Street. The doors between the two have been shut
Immediately, a lockdown began. Interconnecting doors which normally open between No10 and No11 were sealed, and staff were ordered to remain at distance from the Prime Minister.
Yesterday morning, Mr Johnson’s breakfast of fresh berries and juice was delivered on a tray to his closed study door by a flunky in gloves and a mask.
Video-conferencing facilities were set up through the night so that Mr Johnson could deliver the news of his own diagnosis to the nation yesterday morning.
And through the same technology he will continue to remain in close contact with officials and the key members of the Cobra emergency committee – Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove, Mr Hancock and Mr Sunak.
Tracing the Prime Minister’s social contacts may be a near-impossible task.
There is a vast bureaucracy in and out of Downing Street, and at Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons just three days ago, Mr Johnson was seen perilously close to Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, who suffers from Type 1 diabetes.
If the infections at Downing Street worsen – and there is every fear that they will – there is a huge supply of ready meals and other products in the PM’s fridge.
Mr Johnson’s usual diet of spicy sausages, cheese and red wine, has been supplemented by large quantities of vegan food. The company All Plants has been providing boxes of vegan meals and other vegetables.
Yet the frustration for our energetic PM will not be hunger but confinement – and anxiety over Carrie and the welfare of their unborn child.
Where did Boris Johnson catch coronavirus… and who did he infect? How PM came into close contact with politicians and health chiefs over past 10 days before testing positive
Boris Johnson has been in close contact with dozens of politicians and health chiefs over the past ten days before testing positive for coronavirus.
The Prime Minister has been holding press conferences at 10 Downing Street with the likes of Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick.
He has also stood near Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jenny Harries, Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance.
The three scientists have appeared at the Downing Street press conferences, and have also been meeting other politicians and civil servants across Westminster.
While the PM has held Cabinet meetings and discussions with the Queen remotely, he still attended the Commons for Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.
Last night Mr Johnson stood outside in Downing Street with Mr Sunak as they both joined in the national clap for NHS staff. They stood distanced from one another.
However a spokesman for Mr Sunak has said he had not had any symptoms and therefore had not been tested for coronavirus and was not self-isolating.
Going further back, the Prime Minister attended the Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey on March 9 with his pregnant partner Carrie Symonds.
There, the couple spoke to a number of dignitaries and celebrities, and Mr Johnson was photographed shaking hands with boxer Anthony Joshua after the service.
He has also spoken to schoolchildren at No10 on March 5, visited flood defences in Worcestershire on March 8 and been to laboratories on March 1 and March 6.
Here is a pictorial guide to what Mr Johnson has been doing this month:
Boris Johnson joins in with a national applause for the NHS outside Downing Street last night
Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak outside Downing Street for the applause last night
Boris Johnson in the study of 10 Downing Street on a video call to other G20 leaders yesterday
Boris Johnson on the phone in his office in Downing Street to Queen Elizabeth II on Wednesday
Boris Johnson speaks during his first remote news conference on coronavirus on Wednesday
Boris Johnson returns to 10 Downing Street from Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday
Boris Johnson speaks at Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons on Wednesday
Boris Johnson leaves Downing Street for Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday morning
Boris Johnson chairs a weekly Cabinet meeting remotely from the Cabinet Rroom on Tuesday
Boris Johnson addresses the nation from Downing Street and imposes a lockdown on Monday
Boris Johnson speaks during a media briefing at Downing Street on coronavirus on Sunday
Boris Johnson speaks during a media briefing at Downing Street on coronavirus on Sunday, with Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick and Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jenny Harries
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s daily coronavirus update in the Cabinet Room on Saturday
Boris Johnson (centre) with Chancellor Rishi Sunak (left) and Jenny Harries (right) on March 20
Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty (left) and Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance (right) watch as Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks at Downing Street on March 19
Boris Johnson speaks at Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons on March 18
Boris Johnson with Chancellor Rishi Sunak and chief scientific officer Patrick Vallance at Downing Street on March 17
Boris Johnson and his partner Carrie Symonds speak with heavyweight boxer Anthony Joshua at the Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey on Commonwealth Day on March 9
Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds arriving at Westminster Abbey for the service on March 9
Boris Johnson surveys flood defences in the Worcestershire town of Bewdley on March 8
Boris Johnson visits the Mologic Laboratory in the Bedford Technology Park on March 6
Boris Johnson speaks at Downing Street on March 5, in an event attended by Health Minister Nadine Dorries, who later tested positive for the virus, as well as Trade Secretary Liz Truss (in red next to the podium) and athlete Kelly Holmes (in a black suit, two places to Ms Truss’s left)
Boris Johnson visits a laboratory at the Public Health England National Infection Service in Colindale, North London, on March 1