Boris Johnson to host coronavirus Cabinet meeting via videolink

31 March 2020, 07:22

Boris Johnson will host a video conference cabinet meeting
Boris Johnson will host a video conference cabinet meeting. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

The Prime Minister will chair a Cabinet meeting via video call later as he continues to self-isolate after Downing Street was hit by Covid-19.

Boris Johnson, who last week revealed he has tested positive for coronavirus, is under growing pressure to ensure health workers have more protective equipment.

[LIVE NEWS: Coronavirus as it happens]

The PM has faced criticisms over frontline NHS staff battling the Covid-19 pandemic not having the personal protective equipment they need.

Read more: Can I drive during the UK coronavirus lockdown?

On Tuesday morning the British Medical Association issued called for clarity over what healthcare workers should do if they don't have good enough protective equipment - an issue which is likely to be discussed by ministers on Tuesday morning.

Last week, four people attended the meeting in person - including Mr Johnson, Health Secretary Matt Hancock, Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill and chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty - while others dialled in on the Zoom app.

Read more: Prime Minister Boris Johnson tests positive for Covid-19

The PM and Mr Hancock have since tested positive for Covid-19, while Prof Whitty is self-isolating after developing symptoms. In Tuesday's meeting, all attendees are expected to join by videolink.

The meeting of Mr Johnson's top team comes as 1,408 people are confirmed to have died in UK hospitals after testing positive for Covid-19, as of 5pm on Sunday.

Read more: How does the coronavirus home testing kit work and when can I buy one?

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said Mr Johnson's workload was undiminished despite him having to self-isolate after becoming infected.

"The energy and the amount of work that is coming out of No 10 and the flat that he is isolated in has not tapered away," he said.

"I think self-isolation has increased the prime ministerial workrate. He is absolutely all over it.

Read more: Are the police stopping people who go outside during the Covid-19 lockdown?

"This is the beauty of modern technology - even when the Prime Minister is not able to be necessarily in the room he is still doing an amazing job in terms of doing the work.

"That is the same with the Health Secretary and, I have no doubt, the chief medical officer in terms of harnessing technology and making sure that they do everything that is needed in order to tackle this quite extraordinary and unique situation."

Read more: Coronavirus symptoms - What are they and what is the risk of Covid-19 in the UK?

Mr Williamson rejected criticism that Mr Johnson became infected because ministers ignored their own rules of social distancing.

"We all recognise that London and particularly central London has been a real hotspot for the virus," he said.

"Just the length of time the virus takes, most people will have picked up the virus before these new rules have been put into place, but it goes to highlight the importance of the new rules and the importance of people adhering to those rules."

Read more: Coronavirus: Beard sanitiser sales spike after NHS urged staff to shave

The Office for National Statistics is set to release figures on deaths involving coronavirus in the wider community, such as care homes.

The ONS will look at deaths where Covid-19 was mentioned anywhere on the death certificate, including in combination with other health conditions.

Read more: How long does Covid-19 live on surfaces, and is it safe to get overseas post?

These figures are likely to offer detail on how many community deaths involve coronavirus, rather than just looking at deaths in hospital.

It comes after Sir Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, revealed there had been almost a 50% rise in a few days in the number of people being treated for coronavirus in England's hospitals.

He said on Friday that more than 6,200 patients were in hospital with Covid-19, but on Monday this figure had jumped to more than 9,000.

England's chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said the NHS was seeing around an additional 1,000 patients a day and described this daily rise as "stable".

He told reporters at the daily press briefing: "I do expect that number to continue. I expect people coming every day to be about that, it may go up a little bit.

"And in two or three weeks you would expect that to stabilise and to start to go down a bit."

Sir Patrick also said social distancing measures are "making a difference" and transmission of coronavirus in the community is thought to be decreasing.

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