Health minister tests positive for coronavirus

Health minister and Conservative MP Nadine Dorries has been diagnosed with coronavirus.

Ms Dorries, the first MP to test positive, said she had taken all the advised precautions after finding out and has been self-isolating at home.

This comes as a sixth person died from the virus in the UK, which has a total of 382 cases.

The latest person to die was a man in his early 80s who had underlying health conditions.

The Bank of England has announced an emergency cut in interest rates in response to the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak.


Rates have been cut from 0.75% to 0.25%, taking the cost of borrowing back down to the lowest level in history.

Meanwhile, Manchester City’s Premier League match against Arsenal on Wednesday has been postponed as “a precautionary measure” because of the outbreak.

A number of Arsenal players are in self-isolation after coming into contact with Olympiakos owner Evangelos Marinakis, who tested positive for the virus.

The government will unveil its first Budget later, amid growing fears about the impact the outbreak will have on the UK economy.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has pledged the NHS will get “whatever resources it needs” during the crisis, while he is also expected to unveil measures to boost the self-employed and small businesses who are left out of pocket.

Meanwhile, NHS England said it was scaling up its capacity for testing people for the infection, with the number of cases set to rise.

Ms Dorries, the MP for Mid Bedfordshire, said in a statement that Public Health England had started tracing people she had been in contact with, and the department and her parliamentary office were closely following its advice.

The 62-year-old, who began her career as a nurse, later tweeted that it had been “pretty rubbish but I hope I’m over the worst of it now“.

But she added she was worried about her 84-year-old mother who was staying with her and began to cough on Tuesday.

It is not known how many meetings Ms Dorries had attended at Westminster or in her constituency in recent days.

The Department of Health said she first showed symptoms on Thursday of last week – the same day she attended a Downing Street event hosted by the prime minister – and had been self-isolating since Friday.

No 10 did not comment on whether Boris Johnson had undergone testing, or whether he will now be tested.

Public Health England will advise those who have had recent contact with Ms Dorries, including ministers and officials, as to whether they need to self-isolate and report any symptoms.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionSteps the NHS says you should take to protect yourself from Covid-19

Health Secretary Matt Hancock tweeted that Ms Dorries had “done the right thing” by self-isolating at home and wished “her well as she recovers”.

Public Health England, which has already carried out more than 25,000 coronavirus tests across the UK, is set to expand the number of people it can test a day to 10,000 – currently 1,500 are being carried out.

Confirmation of any positive test results will also be accelerated with most people getting a result back within 24 hours.

Image copyright AFP

NHS chief scientific officer Prof Dame Sue Hill said the health service was preparing to cope with more cases.

“Every hospital across the country, and the healthcare professionals who run them, are now actively planning to respond flexibly to manage new demand.”

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will be expected to roll out their own testing services, but there will be some shared capacity between nations, depending on need.

The number of total cases for the UK include 324 cases in England, 27 in Scotland, 16 in Northern Ireland and 15 in Wales.

There are 91 in London, with the next highest infected area being the south-east, with 51 cases. Cases by local council area in England can be viewed here.

The latest person to die, on Monday, was a man in his 80s, with underlying health conditions, who was being treated at Watford General Hospital.

He caught the virus in the UK and officials are trying to trace who he had been in contact with.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media caption“I never thought I’d say this but I’d probably rather be in school,” says Oliver Fox.

The Foreign Office has warned Britons against all but essential travel to Italy, which is experiencing the worst outbreak outside China.

Italy has introduced strict travel restrictions, with people being told to stay home, seek permission for essential travel, and give justification if they want to leave the country.

The Foreign Office is advising anyone arriving in the UK from Italy since Monday evening to self-isolate for 14 days.

The government says it has facilities to accommodate Italian visitors to the UK should they need to self-isolate.

British Airways has cancelled all of its flights to and from Italy until 4 April, and has asked staff to take voluntary unpaid leave.

Easyjet, Ryanair and Jet2 are also cancelling their flights on Italian routes, though EasyJet will operate “rescue flights” to bring British travellers home in the coming days.

‘Enter shops one at a time’

Image copyright Hannah Butcher
Image caption “We know we’ll have to go into quarantine when we get home.”

“It’s the weirdest holiday I think I’ve ever been on,” said Hannah Butcher, from Newbury, Berkshire, who is in Rome with her husband for their first holiday alone since having a child.

“We arrived on Sunday. The advice then was as long as you’re not going into Italy’s red zone, you’re OK.

“We’re currently sitting in a restaurant and everyone here is in staggered rows because they have to sit one metre apart. It’s quite weird seeing families spread across multiple tables.”

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionWhat life looks like under Italy’s coronavirus lockdown

She added that people are “only allowed to enter shops one at a time”.

“All the attractions are closed; there are queues out the door of supermarkets and the butchers. There are police driving round making sure the rules are enforced and a noticeable armed police presence, presumably to keep order.”

She said they were due to fly home with Ryanair on Wednesday morning and had not been informed of any flight updates.

In other developments:

Related Topics

Read more:

Odd and Fun

Tributes to ‘little soldier’ street cat Maximus

Image copyright Kate Jackson
Image caption Maximus, thought to be 12, was described as “the most amazing cat” following his death

Tributes have been paid to a street cat described as a “little soldier” who died after attracting worldwide support.

Maximus was rescued by Stray Cat Rescue Team West Midlands (SCRT) in November after spending a decade on the streets.

He had an immunodeficiency virus similar to HIV and claws so long he could not walk, which prompted global donations and offers of care.

The rescue team said he was “the most amazing cat to ever grace this earth.”

The feline was rescued by the voluntary group in Great Barr, Sandwell. He had £10,000 donated for his care and thousands of gifts of treats and toys from across the globe.


He was given antibiotics and steroids having spent days at the White Cross vets in Wolverhampton. But he suffered breathing difficulties and died on Friday night.

“We lost the funniest, strongest, most amazing cat to ever grace this earth,” SCRT posted on their Facebook page.

“His breathing wasn’t right, he was on oxygen and myself, Jade, Julie, Vet nurses Jo and Sioned held him and comforted him until he decided it was time to leave us.

“He had no fight left and his breathing had totally changed. Medically, there was no sign of anything wrong. There wasn’t a stone left unturned in Maximus’s treatment. Everything that could have been done, was done.”


Woman in 70s becomes first virus fatality in UK

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption The patient had been in and out of the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading

A woman with underlying health conditions has become the first person in the UK to die after testing positive for coronavirus.

The Royal Berkshire NHS Trust said the patient, understood to be in her 70s, had been “in and out of hospital for non-coronavirus reasons”.

She was admitted and tested positive for coronavirus on Wednesday.

It comes as the number of UK people diagnosed with the virus reached 116, a rise of more than 30 in 24 hours.

Meanwhile, the prime minister’s official spokesman said it was “highly likely the virus is going to spread in a significant way”.


What do I need to know about the coronavirus?

The woman, who was being treated at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading, is believed to have caught the virus in the UK, said the country’s chief medical adviser Prof Chris Whitty.

She is not thought to have been abroad recently, BBC health correspondent Nick Triggle added.

Officials are now trying to trace the people she was in contact with.

Prof Whitty offered his sincere condolences to her family and friends and asked that their request for privacy is respected.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Some people are wearing masks, although it is not official government advice
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption A drive-through centre in Parsons Green, London, allows people to be tested through a car window

Prime Minister Boris Johnson also said “his sympathies are with the victim and their family”.

Mr Johnson reiterated that the UK was “still in the contain phase” – the first stage of the government’s response to the outbreak.

He said scientists and medical staff are making preparations for the next phase – the “delay” phase.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Pupils in Hove greet each other with a foot-to-foot tap instead of shaking hands
Image copyright EPA
Image caption A pharmacy in London says it is limiting hand sanitisers to two per customer

According to the latest government figures, as of 9:00 GMT on Thursday there were 115 cases across the UK. Another case was later confirmed in Wales.

The UK cases include 105 patients in England as well as six in Scotland, three in Northern Ireland and two in Wales.

Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool confirmed a child there had tested positive for coronavirus. It is not known how old the child is.

Around 45 of the confirmed cases have been self-isolating at home, while 18 people have recovered.

There are currently 10 cases where the authorities do not know how the individual was infected, said our health correspondent. They have no links with foreign travel, he added.

Mr Johnson said the UK was still in the first phase of its four-part plan to tackle the virus outbreak, which is made up of: contain, delay, research and mitigate.

The government is still deciding what measures will be taken in the delay phase, but has previously said this could include banning big events, closing schools, encouraging people to work from home and discouraging the use of public transport.

Last week, a British man in Japan became the first UK citizen to die from the virus after being infected on the Diamond Princess cruise ship.

Meanwhile, a 33-year-old British woman who works for the United Nations is one of four people who have been diagnosed with the virus in Senegal, after travelling there from London.

And in California, more than 140 British nationals are stranded on board a Princess Cruises ship as officials test passengers for Covid-19.

Italy advice

The government has now updated its guidance to travellers arriving in the UK from Italy – the country in Europe that has been hit worst by the virus, with more than 3,000 cases.

On Thursday, the government said the whole of Italy – not just the north of the country – is now classed as a recognised area of concern, meaning if people develop symptoms after returning from the country they should self-isolate.

For those returning from the quarantined towns in Italy, people should self-isolate even if they do not show symptoms.

Image copyright Alessandro Di Marco
Image caption Health workers wear protective suits and masks inside the isolation area of a Turin hospital

In other developments:

  • Bank HSBC says an employee at its Canary Wharf offices in London has been diagnosed and it is “deep-cleaning the floor where our colleague worked and shared areas of the building”
  • UK airline Flybe has gone into administration and says coronavirus is partly to blame
  • Starbucks says it is “pausing the use of personal cups” and washable ceramic cups in their UK, US and Canadian stores because of fears of the virus
  • Pupils at a school in south Devon are receiving lessons online, after the school shut when a pupil was diagnosed with the virus
  • The competition watchdog has warned retailers and traders they could be prosecuted for trying to “exploit” the coronavirus outbreak by selling protective products at inflated prices
  • ITV say travel companies are deferring their TV advertising, with advertising revenue due to drop 10% in April
  • England’s Six Nations games against Italy in Rome on 14 and 15 March have been postponed – rather than taking place behind closed doors – as a response to the outbreak
  • Ireland records another seven cases, bringing its total up to 13
  • Iran will close schools and universities until 20 March in an attempt to curb the spread

Worldwide, authorities have confirmed more than 92,000 cases of coronavirus – of which more than 80,000 are in China, where the virus began.

More than 3,000 people have died globally, with the vast majority in China.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionChief medical adviser Prof Chris Whitty: “Community transmission highly likely”

Earlier, Prof Whitty told MPs on the health and social care committee that half of all coronavirus cases in the UK are most likely to occur in just a three-week period, with 95% of them over a nine-week period.

He said the health service would be stretched by people needing oxygen and some “things may be considerably less well done” during the peak of an epidemic.

But he said neither elderly people nor people with asthma should self-isolate yet, adding there was no evidence of “deep harm” in children with asthma.

Have you been affected by coronavirus? You can get in touch by emailing

Please include a contact number if you are willing to speak to a BBC journalist. You can also contact us in the following ways:

Or use the form below


Read more: