Dominic Raab takes charge of UK's fight against coronavirus

7 April 2020, 07:01

The First Secretary of State will lead the Government's response
The First Secretary of State will lead the Government's response. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Cabinet Ministers will be greeted by a different face when they dial in for the Government's daily emergency Covid-19 conference call on Tuesday morning.

After the Prime Minister was transferred to intensive care due to his coronavirus symptoms worsening, the Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab in charge of running the Government "where necessary".

As First Secretary of State, Mr Raab has been asked to step up “where necessary” and run the country during the biggest public health crisis in a generation.

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The Foreign Secretary will chair the Cobra and Cabinet meetings as the Government takes crucial decisions related to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Later today Mr Raab will chair the daily emergency Covid-19 meeting which will see him leading senior Cabinet ministers and the UK's Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, and chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance.

The meeting will set out the Government's direction for the day.

According to the Institute for Government, Mr Raab will be handed Mr Johnson's daily Red Box filled with briefing papers.

It is not yet known if Mr Raab will lead the daily Government Covid-19 press conference at Number 10, but Downing Street has stressed that the minister behind the podium is chosen based on the policy work being pushed by the Government on that given day.

With it unknown how long Mr Johnson will be in intensive care for, questions remain about whether the 46-year-old would stand in for his boss on the weekly call between the PM and the Queen.

Catherine Haddon, a senior fellow at the Institute for Government, said a vital part of Mr Raab's role would be to unite senior members of the Cabinet.

She said, given Mr Raab's comments following the news of Mr Johnson's deterioration, the policy towards dealing with the pandemic was unlikely to change drastically.

Mr Raab, in an interview following the PM's admittance to intensive care, said the "focus of the Government will continue to be on making sure that the Prime Minister's direction will be taken forward".

Speaking to reporters, Dr Haddon said: "Ultimately, it is the Cabinet as a whole that takes decisions so part of Mr Raab's role will be managing Cabinet ministers and bringing Government decisions together.

"It will be the senior Government ministers who already chair various Cabinet committees dealing with the response - (Cabinet Office Minister) Michael Gove, (Health Secretary) Matt Hancock - and so part of it will be co-ordinating with them and working with them.

"You'd expect the Cabinet to be working closely together, especially those senior ministers who are most closely involved, to try and get through this period and hoping it is only a few days and the Prime Minister recovers swiftly."