Monday briefing: Boris Johnson in hospital for 'as long as needed'

Top story: Raab to chair government meeting in PM’s place

Morning everyone. This is Martin Farrer bringing you the top stories this Monday morning.

Boris Johnson has been admitted to hospital and will stay for treatment “as long as needed” after failing to shake off the coronavirus. The prime minister was diagnosed with the disease 10 days ago and had been continuing to coordinate the government’s response to the crisis while self-isolating in Downing Street. But No 10 said on Sunday night that Johnson had been taken to an NHS hospital in London after days of persistent symptoms, including a fever. Stressing that he was undergoing tests as a “precautionary” measure, No 10 said he would remain in charge of the government. However, Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary and first secretary of state, is expected to stand in for the prime minister while he is in hospital and will chair the government’s coronavirus meeting this morning. Our health editor writes that the hospitalisation suggests the PM’s case may have progressed to the risky second stage where the immune system can overreact to the virus and attack the body’s own organs.

The Queen urged Britons to “remain strong” in her address to the nation last night. Speaking from Windsor Castle, she invoked Dame Vera Lynn’s wartime hit “We’ll Meet Again” and urged people to take comfort in the fact that “we will meet again”. Scientists in the UK have warned that the testing kits ordered by the government and described by Johnson as a “game-changer” could be unreliable and might only detect 50-60% of milder cases. Scotland’s chief medical officer, Catherine Calderwood, has stood down from her role after it emerged that she had twice broken her own lockdown rules to visit her second home in Fife.

In a sign of hope in the struggle against the virus, the European nations most badly affected – Italy, France and Spain – all reported a fall in deaths from the disease. In the US, the surgeon general warned that the country faces its “Pearl Harbor” moment as the coming week shapes up to be the worst yet for fatalities. Donald Trump also admitted it would be difficult and announced he had ordered 29m hydroxychloroquine pills to help treat the disease.

The global death toll from Covid-19 has risen to almost 70,000 and there are now close to 1,275,000 cases. Here is our latest at-a-glance summary and we will have all the developments throughout the day on our coronavirus live blog.

There’s more in our Coronavirus Extra section further down … and here’s where you can find all our coverage of the outbreak – from breaking news to factchecks and advice.

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Team Starmer – Keir Starmer, the new leader of the Labour party, has appointed Lisa Nandy as shadow foreign secretary, while Anneliese Dodds becomes his shadow chancellor. After his crushing victory was announced on Saturday, Starmer promised to build a balanced team to move on from the Corbyn leadership. His top team was completed by Nick Thomas-Symonds, a barrister, who takes over from Diane Abbott as shadow home secretary. In other appointments, Angela Rayner, the newly elected deputy leader, was made the party chair and there was a return to the front bench for Rachel Reeves.

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Singer Duffy Photograph: David Corio/Getty Images

Duffy ordeal – The pop star Duffy has shared a harrowing account of being drugged, raped and held captive for weeks in a foreign country, saying that she revealed her ordeal in order to “help others”. The Welsh singer said she was kidnapped in a restaurant on her birthday and held at her home and then abroad. She says in the Instagram post that she eventually fled but can’t remember how she got home. After spending the last 10 years “completely alone”, she wrote that she was “no longer ashamed that something deeply hurt me”.

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Housing dip – House sales will collapse this year because of the coronavirus crisis but prices will only fall 3%, according to a study by Knight Frank. It says sales in the UK will plummet from 1,175,000 last year to 734,000 this year, spelling disaster for agents and other firms in the property chain that rely on transactions for their business. But it predicted prices would rebound next year by 5% to leave the market in the black despite the Covid-19 shock.

Coronavirus Extra

The United Nations’ biodiversity chief has called for a global ban on wildlife markets of the type in Wuhan believed to be the starting point of the coronavirus outbreak. Outlawing such “wet markets” was the key to preventing future pandemics, says Elizabeth Maruma Mrema. Guo Jing, a Wuhan resident, writes about her first tase of freedom after the city’s weeks-long lockdown and how she celebrated by eating meatballs by the river.

Russia appears to be going ahead with its annual victory day parade next month despite concerns about large gatherings of troops to rehearse for the event. In Australia, the controversial Ruby Princess cruise ship has docked for 10 days but the crew has to remain on board. Japan is expected to declare a state of emergency. A four-year-old Malayan tiger called Nadia has tested positive for the virus at Bronx Zoo in New York. She and six other tigers and lions that have also fallen ill are believed to have been infected by a zoo employee.

Today in Focus podcast

Scientists in more than 40 labs around the world are working round the clock to develop a Covid-19 vaccine. Despite early success in sequencing the virus’s genome, however, Samanth Subramanian tells Rachel Humphreys we are still some months away from knowing if one can be put into mass production.

Lunchtime read: Michael Sheen on acting, class and Blair

Michael Sheen talks about resuming his acting career after quitting Hollywood for activism – he’s playing Chris Tarrant in a TV drama about the Who Wants To Be a Millionaire cheating scandal – and how his new baby daughter is helping with self-isolation. He also tells Rebecca Nicholson about meeting Tony Blair, whom he has played three times, at Rupert Murdoch’s LA mansion, and jokes about why his “condescending class-blind privilege” would get in the way of him becoming a politician.


Premier League clubs anticipate having to start individual negotiations over wage reductions with their players after attempts to reach a collective pay agreement in response to the coronavirus crisis were frustrated during talks on Saturday. Bookmakers will donate profits of more than £2.6m to NHS Charities Together after Saturday’s Virtual Grand National, which was “won” by the 18-1 chance Potters Corner. The Australian triathlete Mirinda Carfrae lost out in a virtual cycling race after her husband tripped and disconnected the power cable of her smart bike. Israel Folau’s multimillion payout from Rugby Australia could reportedly take a major hit if the sport’s governing body is forced into insolvency due to its coronavirus-induced financial problems. And the New Orleans Saints have confirmed that their legendary kicker, Tom Dempsey, has died after contracting Covid-19, aged 73.


The pound dipped in value overnight as foreign exchange markets took fright at the apparent deterioration in Boris Johnson’s health. Sterling shed 0.2% against the US dollar to stand at $1.224 and dropped 0.3% against the euro to €1.131. The Institute for Fiscal Studies says the coronavirus lockdown will hit young, low-paid women the hardest.

The papers

The news about Boris Johnson came too late for a couple of papers but most managed to hastily remake their front pages. The Guardian headline reads “Boris Johnson admitted to hospital with coronavirus” while the Telegraph says “Johnson taken to hospital for coronavirus treatment”. The Mail says “Boris taken to hospital”, the Times has “PM taken to hospital over virus symptoms” and Metro has “Fears as sick PM’s taken to hospital”.

Most feature a picture of the Queen giving her address to the nation and for the Sun that is the lead and no doubt about the best line: “We will meet again”. Same for the Mirror – “We’ll meet again” – and the Express says “We will succeed … better days will return”. The FT says “Relaxation of capital rules adds £500bn to banks’ virus armoury”. In Scotland, the top story is Catherine Calderwood’s fall from grace. “The hypocritic oath”, says the Scotsman, while the Daily Record advises her: “Stay at home for good”.

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