Boris Johnson will be forced to make a string of “critical announcements” while stuck in his No10 flat after he met an MP with Covid-19.
The Prime Minister was planning to use this week to reset his premiership after a disastrous week of infighting saw off his top two aides.
But now Mr Johnson is having to stay in his flat above Downing Street until Thursday 26 November after he was “pinged” by privatised Test and Trace.
It comes after he met Tory MP Lee Anderson, who later tested positive, last Thursday with no masks and standing less than two metres apart.
Downing Street officials today insisted the planned announcements would still take place, either through Mr Johnson remotely or via other ministers.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who will lead today’s No10 press conference at 5pm, said the PM will “no doubt driving things forward this week by Zoom.”
And in a hand-held video clip this morning Mr Johnson – who almost died of coronavirus in April – claimed he was “fit as a butcher’s dog” and “bursting with antibodies”.
The scruffy-looking Prime Minister said: “Hi folks, 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 – so many people do in my circumstances.
“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 came just as the Prime Minister was facing a critical week following the ousting of divisive top aides Dominic Cummings and Lee Cain.
Brexit talks are resuming in Brussels today, where the UK’s chief negotiator Lord Frost and the EU’s Michel Barnier are trying to get a trade deal.
The EU had wanted a deal first by the middle of October, then by the middle of November, but there are still crucial splits on fishing and the ‘level playing field’ of EU rules.
Just before the PM was forced into self-isolation last night, No10 announced he was planning a string of other announcements or commitments over the next two weeks.
- Meeting MPs from the Northern Research Group today to “listen to their ideas” and convey his “personal ambition for levelling up the country”. This was seen as a bid to reach out after the Cummings saga.
- Chairing key COVID meetings focusing on vaccines, mass testing and a new system to replace the current England lockdown from December 2.
- Speaking to Chancellor Rishi Sunak to make “major decisions in the days ahead” on the spending review.
- Announcing a 10-point environment plan on Wednesday which is thought to include a ban on new petrol and diesel cars from 2030.
He may also take part in PMQs remotely this Wednesday and next Wednesday.
In a WhatsApp message to Tory MPs last night, the PM said he was “more confident than ever” that England’s national lockdown will end on time on December 2.
He also hailed the news that a vaccine rollout could begin in the UK before Christmas after a breakthrough from pharma giant Pfizer.
The PM said there was the prospect of a vaccine “which I hope we’ll be able to start distributing to those who need it, perhaps even before Christmas.”
But Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned “vast bulk” of any rollout, even if the Pfizer vaccine passes trials, would only be in the new year.
Mr Hancock told BBC Breakfast: “Of course we’ll be ready to roll it out as soon as it comes.
“We’ll be ready from December 1, but that’s the earliest it could possibly come. Everything would have to go right for that to happen.
“More likely is that we may be able to start rolling it out before Christmas. But almost certainly the vast bulk of the rollout – if the safety data proved that it’s safe, and that is still not known, we still don’t have a vaccine – but even if we do, it’s likely that the bulk of the rollout would be in the new year.
“Obviously we’re doing all we can and the NHS is working incredibly hard to be ready for the best-case scenario if that comes off.”
Mr Johnson was pictured with Tory MP Lee Anderson in No10 without either of the men wearing masks and less than two metres apart.
With England in lockdown, Mr Johnson, 56, hosted a half-hour breakfast meeting with a group of Tory MPs at No10 on Thursday.
They included Lee Anderson, who said he came down with symptoms the next day and tested positive for the virus at the weekend.
A photo shows Mr Johnson and Mr Anderson, the 53-year-old MP for Ashfield in Nottinghamshire, not wearing face masks and appearing to be less than two metres apart, drawing criticism from a Labour MP.
Grilled by Sky News, Mr Hancock insisted it wasn’t necessary to wear masks because “there’s Covid-secure guidelines in any workplaces”.
Asked if he wears a mask in No10, the Health Secretary said: “Not always, no, because the Covid secure guidelines for that building don’t require it at all times.”