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PM tests negative for COVID – but will do PMQs remotely as he continues to self-isolate

Written by on 17 November 2020

Boris Johnson has tested negative for coronavirus but will continue to self-isolate and answer this week’s Prime Minister’s Questions remotely, Number 10 has said.

Downing Street revealed the prime minister took a rapid turnaround lateral flow test as part of a pilot scheme for Number 10 staff.

“The prime minister took a test yesterday and that test was negative,” Mr Johnson’s official spokesman said.

“But he will, in accordance with the rules on self-isolation, continue to self-isolate.”

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Mr Johnson will take part in PMQs remotely

The prime minister will remain in self-isolation until 26 November.

He has been quarantining after meeting with a group of Conservative MPs – one of whom later tested positive for COVID-19.

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Lateral flow tests, which use similar technology to a pregnancy test and have a turnaround time of under an hour, have been used in Liverpool as part of a mass testing trial.

Mr Johnson’s spokesman said Number 10 is now among a number of other settings – including schools, universities and workplaces – to also pilot the tests.

“In Number 10 we are taking part in a pilot where some staff have access to a lateral flow test if they wish to,” the spokesman said, adding that the pilot scheme had been operating for around two weeks.

Mr Johnson’s self-isolation has disturbed plans for a “reset” of his premiership, following the departure of his controversial chief adviser Dominic Cummings – as well as his director of communications Lee Cain – last week.

Mr Johnson had hoped to use the next couple of weeks to make a series of announcements – including on coronavirus, education, the economy and climate issues – that Number 10 said would be a clear signal of his ongoing ambitions for the country.

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Why being stuck in quarantine has come at the worst possible time for Boris Johnson

But Number 10 has stressed the prime minister intends to continue to speak to the country.

That will continue with his remote appearance at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday – the first time a prime minister will have ever answered questions in the House of Commons virtually.

On Tuesday morning, Mr Johnson chaired a remote cabinet meeting at which his senior ministers were updated on post-Brexit trade negotiations.

At the meeting, the prime minister admitted it was “far from certain” that an agreement with the EU would be possible and that “time is now very short” ahead of the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December.