Is Boris Johnson already working part-time at Chequers? Downing Street fails to dampen speculation Prime Minister ‘will be back in No 10 on Monday to retake control of coronavirus crisis’

  • The Prime Minister has been recovering at his countryside retreat in Chequers 
  • Mr Johnson has told his aides to set up meetings with ministers next week 
  • A source said that the Prime Minister is ‘not very good at doing nothing’ 
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Downing Street failed to dampen speculation today that Boris Johnson will be back at work next week after recovering from coronavirus.

Reports suggested today that the Prime Minister was hoping to take back the reins of power from Monday, after Donald Trump claimed he sounded ‘incredible’ in  a call with the White House.

Mr Johnson has been recovering at his countryside retreat in Chequers after being discharged from hospital earlier this month.

But the call with Mr Trump, plus calls to the Queen, senior ministers and aides have prompted speculation he is close to a return.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the PM was in an ‘ebullient’ state this morning but told the BBC he ‘has to be better’ before returning to Downing Street.

Mr Johnson’s official spokesman said today that he was receiving ‘updates on the coronavirus response’ while in Buckinghamshire and spoke to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and Mr Hancock yesterday.

Asked if this amounted to being back at work ‘part-time’ he replied: ‘Obviously this week he is doing things he was not doing before in terms of holding his audience with Her Majesty and the conversation with president Trump.

‘So you can see exactly what the PM is doing. But in terms of has he had his usual Red Box (official government business), the answer remains that he hasn’t.’

He added: ‘In terms of when he is able to get back to work at No 10, he will take the advice of his medical team on that.’ 

Mr Johnson – who spent three days in the ICU and seven in hospital – has told his aides to set up meetings with cabinet ministers next week to get him up to speed, as reported by The Telegraph. 

A source told the newspaper: ‘He’s not the sort of person who is very good at doing nothing. In truth he has been working pretty much full time for the past week.

The Prime Minister has been recovering at his countryside retreat in Chequers after being discharged from hospital earlier the month

‘The fact that he had a telephone audience with the Queen on Wednesday night shows you that he considers himself to be fit for duty.’ 

Last night Donald Trump revealed some of the details of his call with Boris Johnson on Tuesday, saying he sounded ‘sharp and energetic’.

At a press briefing on Covid-19 the US President said:  ‘He [Boris] called me a few days ago. I will tell you he sounded incredible.’

Donald Trump last night revealed some of the details of his call with Boris Johnson on Tuesday, indicating he may be on the mend.

Mr Johnson – who spent three days in the ICU – has told his aides to set up meetings with cabinet ministers next week to get him up to speed. Pictured: Chequers where the PM is recovering from coronavirus

‘I was actually surprised. I thought he’d be like ‘Oh Donald, how are you?’. He was ready to go. I’m very surprised to tell you this. It’s like the old Boris, tremendous energy, tremendous drive.

‘I was very surprised because he called me, almost you know, pretty close to when he got out of the hospital.

‘I think he’s doing great, I think he’s doing great. He was so sharp and energetic, pretty incredible, he’s an incredible guy.

‘He’s a friend of ours and a friend of mine. He loves our country, he loves his country a lot, but he loves our country, he respects our country and they’re lucky to have him over there.’

It comes on another day of coronavirus developments:

  • The UK’s daily coronavirus death toll in hospitals fell to 616, down from 861 a week earlier; 
  •  Shocking data revealed nearly one in four companies has stopped trading; 
  •  Senior Tories warned that the restrictions are ‘crucifying’ business and must start being relaxed in the next fortnight; 
  •  Chief scientist Sir Patrick Vallance said the epidemic was ‘heading in the right direction’ as figures showed hospital admissions with the virus down 10 per cent in a week; 
  •  Some firms started to return to normal, with B&Q reopening 155 of its stores; 
  •  Heathrow’s boss is writing to Mr Hancock to demand mass screenings of passengers arriving on flights into the UK; 
  •  Nearly three quarters of NHS workers who have died from coronavirus were from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, figures showed; 
  •  Two volunteers were injected with a possible vaccine as the first human trial in Europe got under way in Oxford. 

Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary and First Secretary of State, has been in charge of the Government since Mr Johnson was admitted to hospital at the start of the month.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told reporters last night: ‘The Prime minister spoke with the First Secretary of State yesterday and he had an audience with Her Majesty the Queen by telephone last night.  

Pressed on the PM’s condition, he added: ‘He has spoken with No 10 staff and with the First Secretary of State and he has had a call with the US president and with Her Majesty the Queen.

‘He is being sent regular updates on government business but it is still the case that he is not doing government work.’  

Despite indications Mr Johnson is getting better a picture of him participating in the Clap for Carers at 8pm on Thursday was not released.

Department of Health figures show 22,000 tests were carried out in the UK on Tuesday, despite the Government having capacity to do more than 51,000

But officials confirmed he did take part in the tribute to key workers with his fiancee Carrie Symonds while at Chequers.

It came after ten million key workers and their families were last night offered the chance to have coronavirus tests. 

Matt Hancock said essential staff such as teachers and bus drivers could be tested if they or anyone in their household showed symptoms. 

As the Government finally put testing at the heart of its virus strategy, the Health Secretary also revealed that troops have been called in to ensure key workers who need tests can get them. 

The move is part of a frantic final push to hit his 100,000-a-day testing pledge by the end of this month. Mr Hancock said it was part of a new ‘test, track and trace’ strategy that would eventually ‘get Britain back on her feet’. 

An army of 18,000 official ‘trackers’ is being recruited to trace all contacts of everyone who tests positive in the hope of stopping a deadly second wave. 

There are 31 testing centres around the country which will be used to swab essential workers and their family members. They have the capacity to more than 51,000 tests per day, the Government says

Mr Hancock yesterday said testing capacity had topped 50,000 and was ‘ahead’ of the level needed to hit the target. 

But Downing Street admitted there was ‘a great deal more to do’. With less than a week to go until the April 30 deadline, the latest figures showed that just 22,814 tests were conducted on Tuesday – less than a quarter of the number promised. 

The number of individuals tested was even lower at just 13,522, with many needing to be tested more than once. 

The move came as: 

Mr Hancock last night widened testing eligibility for the second time in a week to include all designated ‘key workers’ and their families in England. 

The move means that tests reserved until recently for coronavirus patients and the emergency services will now be on offer to millions more essential workers. 

These include teachers, prison officers, border guards, transport staff, bin men and other key council staff. 

Other key workers are power station staff, supermarket workers and delivery drivers, telecoms staff and some bank workers and journalists. Government sources said ten million key workers – as well as their families – now be eligible for tests if they or household members were displaying symptoms. 

From today, those eligible will be able to book their own appointment online through the Gov.UK website, and potentially even have the testing kit sent to their home. 

Speaking at the daily press conference in Downing Street, Mr Hancock said the ‘ultimate goal’ was to offer the test to any member of the public who develops classic virus symptoms such as a high temperature and cough.

The promise to carry out 100,000 tests a day was made by Mr Hancock at the start of this month following a campaign to increase testing led by the Daily Mail. 

In a further push to avoid an embarrassing failure to hit the target, ministers have also called in the Army and Amazon to distribute the tests. 

Yesterday, the first of 48 new mobile testing labs designed by the military were put into use in Teesside, Salford and the Isle of Wight. 

The ‘pop-up’ facilities will carry out testing at care homes initially, and could eventually carry out tests in supermarket car parks. 

Amazon’s delivery network has also been enlisted to help supply testing kits to care homes whose staff have been unable to get to drive-through sites. 

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis and testing tsar John Newton both appeared to muddy the waters yesterday by suggesting ministers should be judged on their success in improving capacity to perform tests. 

But Downing Street confirmed Mr Hancock’s pledge, which came in response to criticism of the UK’s dismal record on testing, requires the Government to be actually carrying out 100,000 a day by next Thursday. 

Setting out the broad principles of the Government’s exit strategy, the Health Secretary said testing and tracing would be ‘vital’ in preventing a second wave of the virus, which he said would both cost lives and damage the economy. 

But he said the number of cases first had to be brought ‘right down’ to a manageable level. 

Health bosses are recruiting 18,000 people – including 3,000 clinicians and at least 10,000 call centre staff – to conduct a major ‘contact tracing’ project starting within weeks. 

The Department of Health is in negotiation with commercial call centres to staff the programme, seen as a crucial ‘safety net’ to allow the easing of lockdown measures without a second spike. 

Council environmental health officers, civil servants and hundreds of Public Health England experts will also join the effort to carry out one of the biggest communications exercises ever conducted. 

In total up to 20,000 staff will take part in the first phase of the operation – a number that is expected to be ramped up as lockdown measures are eased further. 

In comparison, just 290 people ran Public Health England’s contact tracing programme in the UK’s initial ‘contain’ phase of the coronavirus epidemic, before it was abandoned in the middle of March. 

In future, anyone who has symptoms will be able to order a swab test from a government website. 

This will be sent to people’s homes and they will return them to a lab via the post for processing. A positive testing result will trigger a call from the contact tracing team, who will ask detailed questions about the patient’s movements in the previous days. 

Each person they have been in touch with will then be phoned and their exposure determined – and if they are at risk they will themselves be asked to isolate for a fortnight. 

If the programme is to stop cases spreading, the team will have to get in touch with at least 80 per cent of contacts within 24 hours, experts believe. 

A report by Imperial College London said last night that if all healthcare workers were tested, even if they were not showing symptoms, this could cut their contribution to the spread of the virus by up to a third. 

Weekly testing of NHS staff working in intensive care, infectious disease and respiratory medicine would require only 5,000 tests a day, researchers concluded. 

Professor Nicholas Grassly, from Imperial, said: ‘We find testing is most useful when targeted at highrisk groups such as healthcare and care home staff. 

‘Regular screening in addition to testing of symptomatic individuals may prevent an additional 25 to 33 per cent of their contribution to transmission in hospital and the community.’

Number of deaths at home has soared by 50% during coronavirus crisis amid fears that elderly and vulnerable patients are passing away alone with potentially treatable illnesses

by Eleanor Hayward Health Reporter for the Daily Mail 

The number of Britons dying at home has soared by 51 per cent since the crisis began.

This surge adds to fears that elderly and vulnerable patients, many reliant on home carers, are failing to seek help then dying alone with potentially treatable illnesses.

The virus death toll in hospitals is now declining. Yesterday 616 patients died, down from a peak of 980 and taking the official toll to 18,783.

Chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said Britain had ‘reached a plateau, coming down slightly but not fast’, adding: ‘I’d expect that to continue for a couple of weeks and we will see a decline thereafter. We are very much heading in the right direction.’ 

But there is growing concern that patients are dying from other illnesses at home or in care homes.

As the UK grapples with the coronavirus pandemic, a surge in the Britons dying at home has added to fears that elderly and vulnerable patients are failing to seek help then dying alone. Yesterday 616 patients died from the virus- down from a peak of 980

Yesterday the Mail revealed how thousands of heart attack and stroke victims are waiting at least two hours 20 minutes for an ambulance. 

And more than a million home care visits have been cancelled, meaning the most vulnerable people risk falling victim to other conditions.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show the number of weekly deaths at home increased by 51 per cent – an extra 1,392 deaths – over the four weeks until April 10.

Just 466 deaths were directly linked to coronavirus, though some people may have caught it but not had it recorded on their death certificate. 

Experts have warned of a surge in people dying of other conditions outside hospitals. Professor David Spiegelhalter of Cambridge University said: ‘People who don’t have Covid are not going to hospital. Attendances to A&E have dropped enormously.

‘People are very reluctant to go to hospital. This is collateral damage of the process we’re going through.’

There are 400,000 people in care homes in the UK and 810,000 more rely on home carers. Many have health issues that require frequent visits.

But thousands of visits from carers have been cancelled during the lockdown, leaving family and friends to cope.

A survey of nearly 5,000 unpaid carers by Carers UK reveals that they are carrying out an average 10 hours more work per week to help loved ones with personal care, practical tasks and emotional support.

Almost nine in ten say they worry about who will take over if they themselves have to self-isolate or become ill.

Helen Walker, head of Carers UK, said: ‘Unpaid carers are fighting the same battle as care staff and many of our NHS workers. Yet they do it behind closed doors.

‘Unlike our fantastic frontline workers they are unable to clock off from their caring responsibilities. Many are overwhelmed and incredibly anxious about how they will manage.

‘Unpaid carers are just as vital in the national effort to keep vulnerable people safe, yet many fear that continuing to care around the clock will lead to them burning out.

‘Carers tell us they feel ignored and invisible in this epidemic. The Government must ensure their physical and emotional well-being is supported at this challenging time and monitor the impact of the reduction in care services.’  

Heathrow boss demands mass coronavirus screenings at British airports, including temperature checks, antibody tests and mandatory ‘health passports’

by Tom Payne, Transport Correspondent for the Daily Mail

The boss of Heathrow is urging ministers to introduce mass screening at airports, the Daily Mail can reveal. 

In a major intervention, chief executive John Holland-Kaye is writing to Health Secretary Matt Hancock to demand stringent regulations to combat coronavirus. 

The airport’s bosses want an internationally agreed standard of measures, which could include temperature checks, antibody tests and a requirement that all passengers carry health passports proving they are medically fit. 

They also want Public Health England (PHE) to release data proving the Government’s claims that temperature screening is ineffective. 

Passengers from the Holland America Line ship Zaandam walk through arrivals in Terminal 2 at Heathrow Airport in London, after flying back on a repatriation flight from Florida

The demand for action from the head of Britain’s biggest airport comes amid mounting anger over the total lack of checks and tests at the nation’s airports – decried by one senior industry figure as a ‘disaster’. 

Officials believe about 15,000 passengers are arriving unchecked into the UK every day, including 10,000 at Heathrow. 

Incredibly, not a single traveller is being checked for signs of coronavirus – even though thousands are arriving from virus-ravaged countries such as China, Italy and Iran. 

Britain’s approach is in stark contrast to other nations which have either closed their borders entirely, or introduced stringent checks on arriving passengers. 

These include measures such as mass temperature screening and mandatory quarantining. 

The airport’s boss John Holland-Kaye (left) has written to the Health Secretary Matt Hancock (right) to demand stringent regulations to combat coronavirus

In the UK, temperature checks have not been introduced after PHE said they were ‘ineffective’ against a virus that can have an incubation period of up to 14 days. 

Experts said entry screening would detect only a small number of cases and the decision not to test was made by the Department of Health and Social Care. 

Instead, under a system of ‘enhanced monitoring’ passengers are handed information leaflets and told to self-isolate for 14 days after landing – although officials admit they have no way of enforcing this. 

Critics say the decision not to limit arrivals and check passengers threatens the health of the nation and makes a mockery of the lockdown conditions imposed on the rest of Britain.

The concourse at Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport, London,  is empty during the normally busy Easter getaway, as the UK continues in lockdown

Last night the powerful transport select committee confirmed plans to investigate the policy on airport testing. 

Mr Holland-Kaye will tell Mr Hancock that airports are coming in for unfair criticism over the Government’s decision not to test. 

He has called for an international standard of screening to revive confidence in air travel once the pandemic is over, which could include permanent social distancing as well as temperature and antibody tests at British airports. 

Other airport bosses have said the absence of checks is creating a false impression that Britain’s airports are more dangerous than others, and warn it could have a long-term impact on passenger numbers. 

Public health experts also questioned the Government’s approach. 

‘Do not use this seat’ signs are places on seats at Heathrow Airport as the coronavirus lockdown continues

Professor Gabriel Scally, of the Royal Society of Medicine, told the Financial Times: ‘The UK is an outlier. 

‘It is very hard to understand why it persists in having this open borders policy. It is most peculiar.’ 

A source at the Department for Transport told the Mail: ‘Our initial instinct was ‘oh my God, we should be testing everybody because who knows what they could be bringing in’. 

‘At the same time, we were being told that airport testing was probably the least effective way of controlling the arrival of the virus.

‘In the end, we decided to ask airlines to carry out checks on pas before they depart to the UK. 

International travellers arrive at an almost deserted London Heathrow Airport as government policy of not screening arriving passengers comes under scrutiny

‘This was a bit hit and miss. We could only regulate UK airlines at UK airports, so we had no way of making sure checks were being carried out in places like China.’ 

PHE said: ‘The decision not to introduce temperature screening was based on the best scientific evidence.’ 

The Airport Operators Association added: ‘UK airports are following current guidelines on screening of passengers… Should the views of experts change and guidance updated, airports will follow that advice.’


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