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Boris Johnson has gone into coronavirus self-isolation just as he tried to relaunch his premiership after several days of Downing Street infighting.
Mr Johnson’s bid to reframe his tenure as Prime Minister was left in limbo after his meeting with Tory MP Lee Anderson who has since tested positive for Covid-19.
The Prime Minister, who was admitted to intensive care with coronavirus in April, said he was notified by NHS Test and Trace on Sunday that he must self-isolate.
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
“I have no symptoms, but am following the rules and will be working from No10 as I continue to lead the government’s pandemic response,” he said.
The news comes at a politically sensitive time for the Prime Minister after the sudden exit from Downing Street of his senior adviser Dominic Cummings and communications director Lee Cain.
Downing Street had insisted Mr Johnson would present a committed policy launch on social justice, “levelling up” and coronavirus over the coming weeks.
The move was being seen by some at Westminster as a bid by the Prime Minister to show he was still in control of the Government’s agenda.
But as the announcement was made, Mr Johnson was advised to self-isolate after attending a 35-minute meeting with a small group of MPs in Downing Street on Thursday morning.
Mr Anderson, MP for Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, said on Facebook he lost his sense of taste on Friday and, after being tested on Saturday, received a positive result on Sunday morning.
The two men were not wearing face coverings and did not appear to be two metres apart in a photo taken at Downing Street which Mr Anderson posted on Facebook.
Number 10 said the “critical announcements” due over the coming weeks would send a “clear signal of his ongoing ambitions for the United Kingdom” with the Prime Minister expected to outline plans for dealing with issues like the Covid-19 pandemic and social inequality.
It was reported on Twitter Mr Johnson is expected to continue to make public statements from inside No 10, including on the government’s green plans.
This is also a pivotal week for Brexit, as negotiations with the EU reach their final phase.
Downing Street said Mr Johnson will liaise with parliamentary authorities about remote participation in House of Commons proceedings. Under the “hybrid” parliament arrangements, MPs can only take part in some proceedings by video link.
Asked if Mr Johnson would be able to take part remotely in Commons events, such as Prime Minister’s Question Time on Wednesday, a Number 10 spokesperson told the PA news agency: “I think that’s what they are trying to work through.”
It was reported Mr Johnson told Tory MPs in a WhatsApp group message that “the rules are the rules” and he must self-isolate as advised although he feels “fine” and his “body is bursting with antibodies from the last time I had it”.
Mr Johnson tested positive for Covid-19 at the end of March and was admitted to a London NHS hospital on April 5, which Downing Street said was a “precautionary step” as his symptoms persisted.
He then spent three nights in an intensive care unit, later revealing it “could have gone either way” and thanked NHS staff for saving his life.