Coronavirus UK: Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock test positive

By | March 27, 2020

Michael Gove is mauled over government’s coronavirus testing failures as the disease strikes down Boris Johnson, Matt Hancock and Chris Whitty – the three men leading the country’s response to the killer virus

  • Boris Johnson announced that he has tested positive for coronavirus as the outbreak spreads across the UK 
  • Health Secretary Matt Hancock also tested positive while Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty has symptoms 
  • Despite positive tests at the heart of the government Downing Street said senior ministers will not be tested  
  • PM self-isolating but he will still lead UK’s response to the crisis thanks to ‘wizardry of modern technology’
  • Mr Johnson took part in applause for NHS staff from Downing Street last night and was in Commons for PMQ 
  • Bombshell news has raised fears that other politicians and senior officials will have been infected as well  
  • Mr Johnson’s partner Carrie Symonds pregnant and thought to have been following guidance on self-isolation
  • Comes as UK death toll jumped by a third to 759 after officials announced 181 more victims of the killer bug
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

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Britain’s Chief Medical Officer has announced he will now be self-isolating after developing coronavirus symptoms just hours after Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock announced they had tested positive for the disease.  

Professor Chris Whitty, who has been one of the leading voices during the deadly outbreak, said he will continue to advise the government but will be doing so from home as coronavirus hit hard at the heart of government. 

The top expert’s announcement was the latest in a series of bombshell revelations as the coronavirus outbreak in the UK stepped up a gear. 

Mr Johnson announced this morning in a video message that he had tested positive before Mr Hancock then announced the same. 

Despite the two positive tests and Mr Whitty’s symptoms, Downing Street has insisted that senior ministers, officials and aides will not be tested for the disease unless they also develop symptoms.  

Michael Gove, the minister for the Cabinet Office, today dismissed suggestions that the government had been ‘careless’ or ‘negligent’ in allowing two senior figures to catch the disease.

Speaking at the government’s daily press conference Mr Gove said the ‘virus 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 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 now leaving work and food at his door for him to pick up. 

Mr Johnson started to feel unwell yesterday afternoon and was then tested after being advised to do so by Prof Whitty. He took part in a clap for the NHS event in Downing Street as he stood at least two metres away from Chancellor Rishi Sunak before then receiving his test results at midnight.  

Mr Johnson is now using the Chancellor’s office in Number 11 which is directly underneath his flat with Mr Sunak now working from home and from the Treasury. 

The diagnosis of Mr Johnson and Mr Hancock now means there is rampant speculation over who else could be infected at the highest echelons of the state. 

Mr Johnson, 55, insisted in a video message that he only has ‘mild’ symptoms’ while Mr Hancock said the same and that he is ‘working from home & self-isolating’. 

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’s pregnant partner Carrie Symonds is believed to be in self-isolation, although it is not known when they last saw each other or if she has been checked. 

Downing Street has previously said that Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab will fill in if the PM is incapacitated. 

In another frantic day of developments in the battle against coronavirus: 

  • Michael 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 today announced that he has tested positive for coronavirus while Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty (pictured left) has developed symptoms and will be self-isolating

Boris Johnson today announced that he has tested positive for coronavirus while Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty (pictured left) has developed symptoms and will be self-isolating

Matt Hancock, pictured second from left, also today said he had tested positive. That means of the four people who have been at the heart of the government's response, two now have coronavirus and one has symptoms. Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific adviser (pictured second from right), said today he has no symptoms

Matt Hancock, pictured second from left, also today said he had tested positive. That means of the four people who have been at the heart of the government’s response, two now have coronavirus and one has symptoms. Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific adviser (pictured second from right), said today he has no symptoms

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Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty this afternoon said he is experiencing coronavirus symptoms and is now self-isolating

Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty this afternoon said he is experiencing coronavirus symptoms and is now self-isolating

Boris Johnson insisted he has 'mild' symptoms', and will be continuing to lead the national response over video-conferencez

Boris Johnson insisted he has ‘mild’ symptoms’, and will be continuing to lead the national response over video-conference

Who will take over from Boris Johnson if he is incapacitated?

Boris Johnson’s positive test for coronavirus has shaken the foundations of the government with all eyes now on who would take over from the Prime Minister if he becomes incapacitated. 

Downing Street has said Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab would take over the PM’s duties due to his status as First Secretary of State. 

The UK does not have a deputy prime minister but first secretary has been used by a number of governments to show who is second in command. 

However, it is not immediately clear what would happen if Mr Raab also became incapacitated, with the UK not having a formal system of succession like other countries, for example the US. 

Downing Street is said to have drawn up plans to ensure the continuation of government in all circumstances but details have not been divulged publicly.  

Mr Raab’s status as the person waiting in the wings is believed to have sparked furious rows within the government with other ministers adamant Michael Gove, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, should be the one to take over.  

Mr Johnson today insisted he only has mild coronavirus symptoms and that he will continue to lead the nation’s fight against the disease. 

But Number 10 is likely to face intense pressure in the coming days to set out exactly what would happen if Mr Johnson and other senior ministers can no longer work. 

In his video message, 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.’

A Downing Street spokesman said: ‘After experiencing mild symptoms yesterday, the Prime Minister was tested for coronavirus on the personal advice of England’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty.

‘The test was carried out in No10 by NHS staff and the result of the test was positive. In keeping with the guidance, the Prime Minister is self-isolating in Downing Street. He is continuing to lead the government’s response to coronavirus.’

The PM’s spokesman said he would be carry out ‘all of the same functions he was performing before’ and ‘the only difference is he will now have to do that via teleconferencing’. 

Mr Hancock said in a video message recorded at his home that he would be self-isolating until next Thursday.

‘Fortunately for me the symptoms so far have been very mild so I’ve been able to carry on with the work driving forward the UK response,’ he said.

He also said a ‘massive thank you to everybody in the NHS, working in social care and right across the board on the response’.

‘I’ll be continuing to do everything I can to get our carers the support that they need,’ he said. ‘And I’ll be doing that from here but with no less gusto.’

‘And then from next Thursday, once I’m out of self-isolation and I hope with no more symptoms, then I’ll be able to get back stuck in and into the office where necessary.

‘But the truth is that all of us can learn that working from home can be really, really effective.’

Mr Whitty tweeted this afternoon: ‘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.’ 

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. 

Mr Johnson was outside No10 last night alongside Mr Sunak applauding NHS workers who are combating the virus, in a national show of appreciation.

His spokesman said he thought it was ‘important’ to take part in NHS clap, and he stayed a ‘very significant distance from the Chancellor’. He chaired a remote meeting of the coronavirus ‘war cabinet’ this morning. 

Mr Johnson took PMQs in the Commons on Wednesday, which could raise fears other politicians have been infected, even though people have been well spaced out in the chamber.

Cabinet on Tuesday was also carried out over video conference.

However, senior officials including Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill were close to the PM in Downing Street for the meeting.  

Downing Street said the advice to staff is they don’t need to do anything unless they suspect they have symptoms, and then they should follow isolation guidance.

Asked if Chancellor or other senior people have been tested, the PM’s spokesman said: ‘I am not aware of any further testing.’

‘Here in Number 10 we have been observing the advice on social distancing,’ the spokesman said. 

Speaking at the government's daily press conference Michael Gove said the 'virus does not discriminate' and 'we are all at risk'

Speaking at the government’s daily press conference Michael Gove said the ‘virus does not discriminate’ and ‘we are all at risk’

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

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

Mr Johnson was in the Commons for PMQs on Wednesday, raising fears other politicians might have been infected

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. 

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‘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.’ 

Meals or work will be left for the PM in No11, with officials knocking on the door and then ‘safely departing’. 

Mr Johnson has not taken any of the regular government press conferences this week.

His audience with the Queen, aged 93, was conducted by telephone. A Buckingham Palace spokesman said: ‘Her Majesty the Queen remains in good health. The Queen last saw the Prime Minister on the 11th March and is following all the appropriate advice with regards to her welfare.’

On Monday he gave a dramatic address to the nation in which he declared that the country had to go into lockdown, with no-one leaving their houses unless absolutely necessary,

Mr Johnson’s fiancee Carrie Symonds is pregnant and is thought to have been self-isolating in line with government advice.   

Ms Symonds, 32, who is believed to be six months pregnant with the baby due in the early summer, was last seen in Downing Street over the weekend and is likely to have left to protect herself.

She now faces an anxious wait to see if she has been exposed to coronavirus, with pregnant women are more likely to catch an infection than women who are not pregnant. 

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman refused to comment of her whereabouts, health or whether she has been tested. 

Good wishes were sent to Mr Johnson from across the political spectrum after his announcement today. 

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn tweeted: ‘I wish the Prime Minister a speedy recovery and hope his family are safe and healthy. Coronavirus can and does affect anyone. Everyone be safe. Our own health depends on everybody else.’ 

Mayor London Sadiq Khan posted: ‘Sorry to hear this and hope you feel better soon. Thank you for everything your Government is doing to help us fight this. This is a reminder that anyone can get #COVID19. We must all follow the rules and stay at home to support our amazing NHS staff to save lives.’  

PM’s pregnant partner Carrie thought to be in self-isolation 

Boris Johnson’s fiancee Carrie Symonds is pregnant and is thought to have been self-isolating in line with government advice.   

Ms Symonds, 32, who is believed to be six months pregnant with the baby due in the early summer, was last seen in Downing Street over the weekend and is likely to have left to protect herself.

She now faces an anxious wait to see if she has been exposed to coronavirus, with pregnant women are more likely to catch an infection than women who are not pregnant. 

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman refused to comment of her whereabouts, health or whether she has been tested. 

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott tweeted: ‘I don’t wish anyone ill. I wish the Prime Minister a speedy recovery. I hope everyone in coming days gets the care and medical attention they need.’

Nigel Farage posted: ‘Wishing @BorisJohnson well and a very rapid recovery.’

And former chancellor Sajid Javid replied: ‘Get well soon. Sending you best wishes from Javid family and Bailey.’

European Council President Charles Michel tweeted: ‘Get well soon @BorisJohnson Europe wishes you a speedy recovery. I believe we’ll win this fight against #COVID19 together.’

World Health Organisation director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tweeted: ‘Please take good care PM @BorisJohnson. I wish you an easy recovery. Thank you for calling on your nation to follow @NHSuk’s guidance. Your leadership and commitment to beating the #coronavirus are key to saving lives in.’ 

Britain’s coronavirus death toll jumped to 578 after 113 more fatalities were confirmed yesterday across the home nations, making it the UK’s darkest day yet in the escalating outbreak 

But officials had changed the timings of how they counted deaths, with the total declared on Wednesday only taking into account an eight-hour period. Yesterday’s shocking figure represents a full 24-hour count. 

The daily death count is not only a count from overnight – the toll can include fatalities hospitals have only just processed, for example patients whose post-mortems have just come back.

Government scientists have admitted there is likely to be 1,000 infected patients for every death recorded in Britain – suggesting the true toll is in the region of 600,000. 

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Number 10 has faced fierce criticism for its controversial policy to only test patients in hospital, meaning only a fraction of cases are being spotted and leaving the true scale of the UK’s outbreak a mystery. 

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. 

Some 3.8million will be eligible for cash grants worth 80 per cent of salary up to £2,500 a month, in a massive boost for taxi drivers, musicians, gig economy workers and freelancers.

However, the Treasury admitted that the scheme will not be up and running until June, and around 200,000 self-employed will not be covered.

Only people turning a profit of less than £50,000 a year are eligible, ruling out many accountants, IT consultants, and lawyers. 

Families where a breadwinner has an income of £50,001 will miss out, while someone turning a £49,999 profit would be covered. 

Those who invest their profits in their business, or set themselves up as a limited company and pay themselves via a dividend, will also be ineligible.

Mr Johnson chaired Cabinet by video conference on Tuesday - but senior officials including Cabinet Secretary Mark Sedwill were still close to the PM

Mr Johnson chaired Cabinet by video conference on Tuesday – but senior officials including Cabinet Secretary Mark Sedwill were still close to the PM

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

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

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

Boris Johnson visits a laboratory at the Public Health England National Infection Service in Colindale, North London, on March 1


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