The fallout from Boris Johnson’s meeting with a Tory MP who later tested positive for Covid-19 is growing – as four other Conservatives are now self-isolating.
The PM said he feels “great” on his first working day isolating in No 10.
a video on Monday, Mr Johnson urged others to “follow the rules” if contacted by NHS Test and Trace.
On Thursday, Mr Johnson spent about 35 minutes with Tory MP Lee Anderson, who lost his sense of taste the next day.
The BBC has been told the prime minister was contacted by a clinician at NHS Test and Trace on Sunday, who had spoken to Mr Anderson about his movements and decided their meeting counted as close enough contact to require self-isolation.
Mr Johnson, who was admitted to intensive care with coronavirus seven months ago, has maintained the pair followed all social distancing advice during the appointment.
The four other Conservative MPs self-isolating following the meeting include South Ribble MP Katherine Fletcher, Warrington South MP Andy Carter, Great Grimsby MP Lia Nici and Bassetlaw MP Brendan Clarke-Smith.
Hi folks, I’ve been instructed by our NHS Test & Trace scheme to self-isolate for two weeks, after being in contact with someone with Covid-19.
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) November 16, 2020
The PM’s period of isolation begins as the government prepares a policy relaunch.
Downing Street said a series of “critical announcements” would this week detail Mr Johnson’s “ambitions for the United Kingdom”.
Mr Johnson will chair “key Covid meetings” and work with Chancellor Rishi Sunak to devise the upcoming spending review with an aim to fulfil his promise to “build back better”.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock will hold a No 10 news conference later, which the prime minister had been expected to lead.
The new policy plans follow the dramatic departure of the PM’s chief adviser Dominic Cummings last week.
Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Mr Hancock said the prime minister’s self-isolation would make no difference to the amount of work he would be able to do “driving forward the agenda”.
Asked if the PM and Mr Anderson followed social distancing rules during their meeting, he said there were rules “around Downing Street being a Covid-secure workplace”.
He added: “The central point is that it doesn’t matter who you are, if you are contacted by NHS Test and Trace and told to self-isolate that is what you must do.”
‘Bursting with antibodies’
In the video, the PM added: “The good news is that NHS Test and Trace is working ever-more efficiently, but the bad news is that they’ve pinged me and I’ve got to self-isolate because someone I was in contact with a few days ago has developed Covid.
“It doesn’t matter that we were all doing social distancing, it doesn’t matter that I’m fit as a butcher’s dog, feel great.
“And actually, it doesn’t matter that I’ve had the disease and I’m bursting with antibodies. We’ve got to interrupt the spread of the disease and one of the ways we can do that now is by self-isolating for 14 days when contacted by Test and Trace.”
It remains unclear what effect, if any, previously having the coronavirus has on a person’s immunity but experts think reinfection is likely to be rare, BBC health correspondent James Gallagher has reported.
What is self-isolation?
Self-isolation means staying at home and not leaving it – even to buy food, medicines or other essentials, or for exercise.
If you are told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace or the NHS Covid-19 app, you must self-isolate for 14 days from the day you were last in contact with the person who tested positive for coronavirus.
And if you develop symptoms during the 14 day period, you should get a test as soon as possible.
If the result is negative, you should continue isolating for the rest of the 14 days.
If positive, you should self-isolate for at least another 10 days from when your symptoms started.
On Thursday, Mr Anderson, the Conservative MP for Ashfield, posted a photo of himself with Mr Johnson at No 10 alongside the words: “Breakfast with the PM.”
On Sunday, he posted on his Facebook page to say he was self-isolating with his wife, who is clinically vulnerable, after they both tested positive.
The PM wrote on Twitter on Sunday night that he had been notified by NHS Test and Trace that he must self-isolate as he had been in contact with someone who tested positive, and he would be working from No 10.
‘Timing couldn’t be worse’
Boris Johnson will now have to stay at home in No 10.
It means he will not be able to be in Parliament, though I’m told he will be working from Downing Street.
He does still intend to keep communicating with the country.
It was supposed to be a pretty big week for Boris Johnson – he is trying to reset his government after some factional fighting in his office over the last few days.
There are conversations taking place with the parliamentary authorities to see whether he can still contribute to the Commons.
I think it is fair to say this has not come at the best time for Mr Johnson: he has big decisions to make on Brexit and what happens when England’s lockdown ends on 2 December.
And it is also worth bearing in mind he was extremely ill with coronavirus earlier in the year and we do not know what getting the virus does for a person’s immunity.
Over the weekend, senior Tory MPs said Mr Cummings’ departure was a chance to “reset government” and a series of announcements are planned for this week.
A meeting between the PM and the Northern Research Group of backbench Tory MPs had been scheduled for Monday.
Officials also confirmed the government’s 10-point plan for a “green industrial revolution” would be published “to boost green jobs whilst invigorating plans to achieve net zero (emissions) by 2050”.
In addition, talks over a post-Brexit trade deal with the EU are due to restart in Brussels later.
The transition period, which followed Brexit in January, ends on 31 December by which time a deal needs to be agreed and approved by parliaments in the UK and EU.
Mr Johnson has reiterated he is “confident [the UK] will prosper” outside the EU if a deal is not agreed with the bloc.
Meanwhile, in other coronavirus developments:
- Two new “mega labs” will open early next year to try to double the UK’s daily coronavirus testing capacity, the government has said
- A major trial of a vaccine to protect against Covid-19 has launched in the UK – the third such trial in the country
- The Supreme Court will hear a hotly-contested case about insurance payouts for small businesses who were unable to trade owing to lockdown later
The UK government announced another 24,962 confirmed Covid cases on Sunday, as well as a further 168 deaths within 28 days of a positive test.
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