Coronavirus: 'Parliament should be cleared and budget announced online'

11 March 2020, 10:30

A woman in a protective mask walks in central London
A woman in a protective mask walks in central London. Picture: Getty

By Asher McShane

London Mayoral hopeful Rory Stewart today led calls for the House of Commons to cease sitting 'in person' due to coronavirus.

Mr Stewart also said that he thinks that the Commons should be emptied completely for today’s crucial budget and the measures should be announced online instead, to stop scores of MPs being in close contact with each other for an extended period of time.

It comes after MP Nadine Dorries was confirmed to have coronavirus. She has said she is “over the worst” but came into extended contact with numerous people in the past week, including the Prime Minister and his pregnant fiancee Carrie Symonds.

In a statement last night, Ms Dorries said: "As soon as I was informed I took all the advised precautions and have been self-isolating at home.

"Public Health England has started detailed contact tracing and the department and my parliamentary office are closely following their advice.

"I would like to thank PHE and the wonderful NHS staff who have provided me with advice and support."

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said she first exhibited symptoms at some time on Thursday - the same day she attended a Downing Street event hosted by Boris Johnson to mark International Women's Day.

The Department said there were no plans for any minsters to be tested, but could not confirm the same for officials or advisers. Contact tracing is under way, a spokesman said.

Ms Dorries also sent a message to the Tory WhatsApp group saying that a member of her staff is ill.

The MP who confirmed the message had been sent said the parliamentary party is "fairly relaxed and determined to carry on working".

Ms Dorries, the 62-year-old MP for Mid Bedfordshire, who began her career as a nurse, has been self-isolating at home since Friday.

Politcal website Guido Fawkes said that people who met Ms Dorries should self-isolate, according to Public Health England (PHE) guidance.

Their advice states that the virus spreads after “spending more than 15 minutes within two meters of an infected person, such as talking to someone.”

MP Rachael Maskell has self-isolated as a result. Attendees of the meeting at No10 last Thursday include the Prime Minister, Carrie Symonds, Liz Truss, Dame Kelly Holmes, among other groups.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said ministers would not need to undergo testing.