Who might Boris Johnson have come into contact with while infected? And who will take over if he cannot lead?

27 March 2020, 16:31

The prime minister and the health secretary have both tested positive for Covid-19
The prime minister and the health secretary have both tested positive for Covid-19. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

With Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock both testing positive for Covid-19, who may they have come into contact with? And who will take over their roles?

On Friday morning, the prime minister announced he had tested positive for coronavirus after developing "mild symptoms", including a temperature and a persistent cough.

Later, the health secretary revealed that he too had contracted Covid-19 and would be self-isolating until next Thursday.

Both politicians have played vital roles in leading the nation through the pandemic, meaning they have come into contact with a number of high-profile individuals.

Below, we look at some of the pair's recent meetings as concerns over a government outbreak rise.

Cabinet had been meeting in person until last week
Cabinet had been meeting in person until last week. Picture: PA

When did Boris last meet the Queen?

Given that Her Majesty is 93 and the news that Prince Charles tested positive for Covid-19, some people have expressed concern over the Queen's health.

Boris Johnson last saw the Queen on 11 March, while her son the Prince of Wales last met with her briefly on the morning of 12 March.

A spokesman for the monarch looked to reassure the nation that she remains healthy and has been conducting weekly audiences with the prime minister by telephone for "at least the last fortnight".

The spokesman said: "Her Majesty the Queen remains in good health. The Queen last saw the Prime Minister on March 11 and is following all the appropriate advice with regards to her welfare."

The Queen has been holding weekly audiences with the prime minister via telephone
The Queen has been holding weekly audiences with the prime minister via telephone. Picture: Buckingham Palace

When did Boris last see Carrie Symonds?

With Carrie Symonds being pregnant with the prime minister's child, many are worried about the impact it could have if the UK leader's fiancée contracts Covid-19.

Ms Symonds was pictured with Mr Johnson at the Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey on 9 March, while Downing Street has suggested she is not living with him at present.

When asked whether his fiancée was living with the prime minister in the flat above Number 11, the leader's official spokesman said: "The Prime Minister of course follows all of the guidelines which have been issued by Public Health England in full.

"His circumstance is such that he will be required to self-isolate for seven days."

Boris Johnson was seen with Carrie Symonds on 9 March
Boris Johnson was seen with Carrie Symonds on 9 March. Picture: PA

When did Boris and Matt Hancock last meet with Cabinet?

With social distancing measures affecting every one of us, Cabinet chose to hold a meeting via video-conference earlier this week for the first time.

However, prior to Tuesday's meeting, ministers had still been meeting each week in person.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has stood alongside the prime minister on several occasions at press conferences. However, a spokesman for the chancellor said he had shown no symptoms and therefore did not need testing or quarantining.

Since Cabinet meetings went online, journalists too have not been around ministers as they pose their questions via video-link.

On Thursday evening, the prime minister stood alongside Mr Sunak outside Downing Street to join the UK in celebrating and applauding our NHS heroes. However, the pair kept their distance from one another while doing so.


Both Mr Johnson and Mr Hancock have been regularly convening with the country's top medical and scientific advisers in recent weeks, drawing up the country's response to the virus.

Professor Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, Dr Jenny Harries, his deputy, and Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific officer have all taken part in the daily press conferences and met with the health secretary.

They have also been meeting other politicians and civil servants throughout Westminster.

Professor Whitty and Sir Patrick both joined the UK leader at the press conference inside No10 on Wednesday, while on Tuesday Mr Hancock was joined by Dr Harries.

It is not yet known whether any of them have been tested for the illness.

Prof Whitty (L) and Sir Patrick (R) have stood alongside Boris
Prof Whitty (L) and Sir Patrick (R) have stood alongside Boris. Picture: PA

Who will replace Boris Johnson if he cannot lead the nation?

The UK does not have a line of succession and the role of Deputy Prime Minister is not filled in Boris Johnson's Cabinet.

However, it has been announced Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab would take over prime ministerial duties if Boris Johnson is unable to work following his infection.

A Number 10 spokesperson told reporters that Mr Raab would fill-in as he was First Secretary of State.

“The Prime Minister has the power to delegate responsibility to any of his ministers but, for now, it’s the Prime Minister and then the Foreign Secretary,” they said.

It is also understood that each minister has nominated backups in the event of being struck down by the virus.