Could this be the ultimate revenge for Brexit? The coronavrius that has laid Boris Johnson low may have passed into Westminster’s inner circle via the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, according to one theory.
The Mail on Sunday has traced connections between those known to have the virus in an attempt to identify Downing Street’s possible ‘Patient Zero’ – the first person in a community to become infected.
And suspicion has fallen on a meeting in Brussels on March 5 between Mr Barnier and David Frost, the UK’s chief negotiator, which opened the first round of talks on a post-Brexit trade deal.
The coronavrius that has laid Boris Johnson low may have passed into Westminster’s inner circle via the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, according to one theory
Within the 14-day maximum incubation period, Mr Barnier announced on March 19 that he had tested positive for coronavirus, writing on Twitter: ‘I am following all the necessary instructions, as is my team.’
The following day, Downing Street revealed that Mr Frost had entered self-isolation after experiencing ‘mild symptoms’, becoming the first member of the Prime Minister’s inner circle thought to have become infected.
Soon afterward, other top officials began working from home, including Whitehall enforcer Helen MacNamara.
Two days after first feeling unwell – and a day after a test confirmed that he had contracted coronavirus – Mr Johnson was yesterday running the country from self-isolation in his Downing Street flat.
Sources say that although Mr Johnson is trying to maintain his ‘usual sunny self’, he is blighted by a dry cough. He is continuing to fulfil his duties, speaking on Friday evening to Donald Trump
Aides and advisers gathered in the Cabinet room for a series of video conferences with Mr Johnson, including the morning ‘Covid-19 war committee’, where the latest NHS data and international comparisons are shared.
Similar meetings of the war committee will take place tomorrow morning and throughout next week – assuming Mr Johnson continues to suffer only mild symptoms.
After the PM revealed his diagnosis, sparking a ‘stunned atmospshere’ among Westminster aides who learned the news only moments before it was made public, Health Secretary Matt Hancock tested positive for the virus on Friday, with Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty then announcing he, too, had symptoms.
Yesterday Scotland Secretary Alister Jack became the third Cabinet member to start self-isolating after developing a mild temperature and a cough.
This newspaper understands that Mr Johnson is refusing to countenance the idea of stepping aside to let Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab take temporary charge on the grounds that he feels well enough to work and has no underlying health conditions.
Aides and advisers gathered in the Cabinet room for a series of video conferences with Mr Johnson, including the morning ‘Covid-19 war committee’, where the latest NHS data and international comparisons are shared
But sources say that although Mr Johnson is trying to maintain his ‘usual sunny self’, he is blighted by a dry cough.
He is continuing to fulfil his duties, speaking on Friday evening to Donald Trump. It is understood the Prime Minister asked for help acquiring more ventilators, while Mr Trump commiserated with Mr Johnson during ‘one-on-one time’, with no aides listening.
The last Cabinet meeting to take place in person was March 17, meaning attendees could have contracted the virus without yet showing symptoms.
Last Tuesday’s meeting took place via video conference with only Mr Johnson, Mr Hancock, Professor Whitty and Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill – the country’s most senior civil servant – attending in person.
Until last week – in violation of the Government’s own social distancing rules – the emergency Cobra meetings on Covid-19 were held in person, with key Ministers crammed around a single table.
Other potential ‘Patient Zeros’ include Prince Charles and junior Health Minister Nadine Dorries.
Mr Johnson encountered the Prince at a Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey on March 9 and the pair engaged in animated conversation, while Mrs Dorries, the first MP to test positive for Covid-19, attended a Downing Street reception with the Prime Minister at the start of the month.
There is also concern about a potential threat to the health of Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle, a diabetic who started self-isolating last week as a precaution.