The week Britain had no-one in charge: Secrecy row as it is revealed top civil servant Sir Mark Sedwill ALSO had coronavirus at the same time as Boris Johnson, Dominic Cummings and Matt Hancock
- Sir Mark Sedwill was ill with coronavirus at approximately the same time as PM
- Sir Mark worked from home during illness and was ‘carrying out duties in full’
- Number 10 only revealed today that the Cabinet Secretary had had coronavirus
- Revelation will inevitably prompt questions over Downing Street transparency
- Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19
Downing Street today revealed for the first time that Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill had coronavirus at approximately the same time as Boris Johnson.
The Prime Minister tested positive for the disease on March 27 which means the nation has only found out its top civil servant also had the virus about six weeks after the fact.
The disclosure by Number 10 will inevitably spark a furious row over transparency and questions over why the information was not made public earlier.
Number 10 was grilled almost daily about the health status of key government players before and after Mr Johnson tested positive.
But journalists were always told Sir Mark, who is also the government’s national security adviser, was ‘working as normal’.
Today the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman said he had only become aware ‘recently’ of Sir Mark having had coronavirus after he was told by a journalist.
Those now known to have had coronavirus at the heart of government include Mr Johnson, the Health Secretary Matt Hancock and the PM’s top aide Dominic Cummings. Chief Medical Office Professor Chris Whitty also self-isolated after developing symptoms.
Sir Mark Sedwill, pictured with Boris Johnson inside Number 10 on July 24 last year, had coronavirus at the same time as the PM
Number 10 today said Sir Mark, pictured alongside Mr Johnson and Rishi Sunak on April 28, had ‘continued to carry out his duties in full’ while working from home during his illness
Told that Number 10 had previously always insisted Sir Mark was fine, the spokesman said: ‘Your recollection is entirely right.
‘You were asking me about the Cabinet Secretary and I said throughout that he was working as normal which he was.
‘He continued to carry out his duties in full so I was only aware very recently when it was pointed out to me by a journalist.
‘The Cabinet Secretary was carrying out his duties in full and I was seeing him everyday chairing the meetings via Zoom.’
Asked directly if Sir Mark had coronavirus at the same time as the PM, the spokesman said: ‘He worked from home as usual throughout.
‘You will remember at the time most people were working from home so there is nothing unusual about that.’
The spokesman said he was unaware exactly when Sir Mark had developed coronavirus symptoms.
The fact that a handful of people at the top of the government caught coronavirus has previously prompted intense scrutiny of its handling of the outbreak.
Ministers have always dismissed accusations that it showed they had taken the wrong approach, insisting that it simply demonstrated the indiscriminate nature of the disease.
It was revealed on March 27 that Mr Johnson had tested positive for coronavirus with Mr Hancock announcing later on the same day that he too had tested positive.
Mr Johnson was then admitted to hospital on April 5 and moved to an intensive care unit on April 7 before being released on April 12.
He spent a number of weeks recovering at Chequers before returning to work on April 27.
Mr Johnson said of his illness that there were ’48 hours when things could have gone either way’.
Mr Hancock spent a week in self-isolation after his positive test. He said it had felt ‘like having glass in my throat’ and that he had lost half a stone in just seven days.
Meanwhile, Mr Cummings’ wife revealed last month that her husband was so ill with coronavirus that she believed he should have gone to hospital.
Journalist Mary Wakefield revealed that Mr Cummings, 48, spent 10 days bedridden with the disease after coming home to nurse her through a milder case.