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Coronavirus: No plan to test ministers as Dorries becomes first MP with Covid-19

Labour MP for York Central Rachael Maskell said she has been told to self-isolate following a meeting with the Health Minister last week.

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Health Minister Nadine Dorries has become the first MP to be diagnosed with coronavirus (Steve Parsons/PA)

Health Minister Nadine Dorries has become the first MP to be diagnosed with coronavirus (Steve Parsons/PA)

Health Minister Nadine Dorries has become the first MP to be diagnosed with coronavirus (Steve Parsons/PA)

There are no plans to test any ministers, including PM Boris Johnson, for coronavirus after Health Minister Nadine Dorries became the first MP to be diagnosed with Covid-19.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said ministers would not need to undergo testing as Public Health England (PHE) worked to advise those who have been in close contact with Ms Dorries.

PHE said it had assessed the risk of Ms Dorries’ individual close contacts and only those with symptoms need to self-isolate.

For each Covid-19 case, a risk assessment is carried out and advice tailored to that group, a spokeswoman told the PA news agency.

Labour MP for York Central Rachael Maskell said she is self-isolating on the advice of 111 following a meeting with the health minister last Thursday.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

It comes as a 53-year-old British woman was reported to have died from Covid-19 in Indonesia, with the Foreign Office offering support to her family.

Ms Maskell tweeted: “NHS111 have advised that I self-isolate as a result of a meeting I had with the Government’s Mental Health Minister last Thursday who has subsequently tested positive for Coronovirus. Thankfully I am asymptomatic. It is so important that we all follow all public health advice.”

Ms Maskell told the PA news agency that just herself, Ms Dorries and members of the minister’s staff were present at the meeting on Thursday.

She said: “I’m absolutely fine, obviously it’s frustrating because there are things I want to get on with.”

A Conservative MP also confirmed to PA that Ms Dorries had sent a message to the Tory WhatsApp group saying that a member of her staff is ill.

Ms Dorries’ office in the Commons remains closed following advice from PHE for it to stay shut.

In a statement on Tuesday 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.”

She later tweeted thanks to her well-wishers, adding: “It’s been pretty rubbish but I hope I’m over the worst of it now.

“More worried about my 84yo mum who is staying with me and began with the cough today. She is being tested tomorrow. Keep safe and keep washing those hands, everyone.”

The news came after the number of cases in the UK rose to 382, and a sixth death in the UK was confirmed on Tuesday.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

Ms Dorries, the 62-year-old MP for Mid Bedfordshire, attended a Downing Street event on Thursday hosted by the Prime Minister to mark International Women’s Day.

But it is understood the PM had no close contact with Ms Dorries at the event, and has no symptoms, meaning he does not need a test.

A Downing Street spokesman said Mr Johnson “wished Nadine Dorries a speedy recovery”.

Ms Dorries held a surgery in her constituency on Friday morning which was attended by up to 12 people, according to Steven Dixon, chair of the Mid Bedfordshire Conservative Association. Details of those who attended have been passed to the NHS, he said.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who will deliver a Commons statement on coronavirus at 7pm on Wednesday, tweeted that Ms Dorries had “done the right thing” by self-isolating.

Meanwhile, Chancellor Rishi Sunak told the Cabinet that his Budget’s measures to cope with Covid-19 “will make the UK one of the best placed economies in the world to manage the potential impact of the virus”, Downing Street said.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

In other developments:

–  NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens announced plans to “invite up to 18,000 third year undergraduate nurses to help out on the frontline” in the battle against coronavirus

– England’s cricketers have been instructed not to sign autographs or pose for selfies with fans during their test tour of Sri Lanka while Manchester City’s Premier League clash with Arsenal has been postponed as a “precautionary measure” over coronavirus fears

– The NHS in England is “ramping up” testing facilities so that 10,000 coronavirus tests can be performed each day.

– Cambodian health authorities are testing people on a cruise boat docked in Kampong Cham, Cambodia, after a British passenger was reported to be infected with Covid-19. The vessel had sailed from Vietnam.

– British nationals from the Grand Princess cruise ship in the port of Oakland, California, will land in Birmingham on Wednesday evening and will be asked to go into self-isolation.

– The Bank of England announced an emergency cut in interest rates from 0.75% to 0.25% in response to the economic impact of coronavirus.

The woman who died in Indonesia was ill with other health conditions, including diabetes and lung disease, the Indonesian government said.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: “We are supporting the family of a British woman who has died in Indonesia and are in contact with local authorities.

“Our sympathies and thoughts are with her family at this difficult time.”

On Tuesday, Italy extended coronavirus travel restrictions to the whole country, with soldiers and police enforcing the bans.

PHE said anyone flying back to the UK from Italy – and those returning from the US cruise ship – would be told to self-isolate at home if they have no symptoms.

PA