The Press and Journal (Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire)

Coronaviru­s hits heart of government

● Chief medical officer is also self-isolating with symptoms

- BY DANIEL O’DONOGHUE

● Prime minister and health secretary test positive for Covid-19

● Johnson diagnosis sparks testing debate as Scots death toll hits 33

Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock have been forced into isolation for seven days after testing positive for coronaviru­s. Their diagnosis yesterday was quickly followed by news that the UK chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty was selfisolat­ing with symptoms, raising fears that the virus is spreading in Downing Street among those co-ordinating the national strategy.

The three men said they are experienci­ng a mild form of the illness up to now and will be continuing to work in isolation.

The revelation came as the UK saw its biggest day-on-day rise in deaths since the Covid-19 outbreak began.

A total of 759 people have now died in UK hospitals after being diagnosed with coronaviru­s, while 113,777 have tested positive and hundreds of thousands more people are thought to be infected.

Mr Johnson, who is 55, will now be selfisolat­ing alone in his Downing Street flat above Number 11 until the end of next week.

The prime minister was tested for Covid-19 on Thursday afternoon after he developed a temperatur­e and cough, and when the result came back positive at midnight he retreated to his private rooms in Downing Street to observe selfisolat­ion guidelines.

It is believed that Mr Johnson is the first leader of a G7 country to have contracted the infection.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab will take over if Mr Johnson becomes too ill to carry on at the head of the government’s response.

Mr Johnson’s fiancee, Carrie Symonds, who is five months pregnant, has left Downing Street and is self-isolating with their dog Dilyn at another location.

In a video posted on Twitter, Mr Johnson said: “I am working from home, I’m selfisolat­ing, and that’s entirely the right thing to do.

“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 fightback against coronaviru­s.”

He also paid tribute to the “amazing” NHS staff.

“It was very moving to join in that national clap for the NHS. It’s not just the NHS, it’s police, 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 volunteeri­ng,” he said.

In a similar video posted online, Mr Hancock said: “I’ve had some mild symptoms of coronaviru­s and upon medical advice I was tested and that test has been positive, so I will be self-isolating here until next Thursday. Fortunatel­y for me the symptoms so far have been very mild so I have been able to carry on with the work, driving on the UK response.”

The prime minister’s spokesman said yesterday: “The PM noticed that he had mild symptoms on Thursday afternoon, he spoke to the chief medical officer about that and on the chief medical officer’s advice he was tested in Number 10.

“He got the result on that test at midnight last night, the PM has been in self-isolation in the flat in Number 11 and that’s where he will remain for seven days.”

He added: “While the PM is self-isolating he will do the same things, but that will be done exclusivel­y via teleconfer­encing from Number 11.

“Number 11 in its entirety will serve as the PM’s office and home, the doors between Number 10 and 11 have been closed off to all other staff who work in the building.”

Asked if other members of the Cabinet, such as Rishi Sunak and Michael Gove, would be tested, the spokesman said: “Look, we have all been observing the advice on social distancing, we have wherever possible been using social distancing, we have been taking steps and following the same advice we have been giving the public.

“But I’m not aware of any further testing. If people start to display symptoms then they are advised to self-isolate.”

Asked if Mr Johnson had recently come into close contact with the Queen, the spokesman said: “A significan­t period of time ago.

“He’s been conducting the weekly audiences with Her Majesty by telephone for at least the last fortnight, and possibly longer.”

A Buckingham Palace spokesman confirmed the head of state last saw the prime minister just over two weeks ago.

He said: “Her Majesty the Queen remains in good health.

“The Queen last saw the prime minister on March 11 and is following all the appropriat­e advice with regards to her welfare.”

MPs from across the political spectrum expressed their support for the prime minister yesterday.

Business Minister Nadhim Zahawi said: “Get well soon, Boris. You are doing an incredible job. We will get through this and emerge stronger for it. You have the energy and spirit to bring us together and pull through.”

Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt said the “thoughts and prayers of the whole nation” were with Mr Johnson.

SNP Westminste­r leader Ian Blackford added: “This sadly shows nobody is immune. Everybody must follow the advice on social distancing, non-essential work must not take place. We need to take all measures to isolate if need be.”

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