THE health minister Nadine Dorries has become the first MP to be diagnosed with coronavirus, prompting concerns about the potential spread of the illness at Westminster and even at Downing Street, where she attended a reception last week.
The Department of Health and Social Care DHSC confirmed that Dorries, the Conservative MP for Mid Bedfordshire since 2005 and a bestselling author of fiction, had tested positive for the infection.
The identity of the individual who infected her is unknown. Focus will now fall on tracking down and testing the potentially hundreds of people Dorries will have been in contact with in the past week, both in parliament and at the health department.
She also attended a Downing Street reception last week for International Women’s Day where the prime minister,
Boris Johnson, and his fiancee, Carrie Symonds, were among guests present.
A DHSC spokeswoman said Dorries, who began her career as a nurse, has been self-isolating at home since Friday. She is understood to be recovering.
In a statement released by the department, she said: “I can confirm I have tested positive for coronavirus. 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.”
Matt Hancock, the health secretary, tweeted: “Really sorry to hear Nadine has tested positive for coronavirus. She has done the right thing by self isolating at home, and both NHS and PHE staff have been brilliant. We all wish her well as she recovers.”
There has been speculation that parliament could be suspended to limit the spread of coronavirus among MPs, peers and staff, but Downing Street has as yet played down this idea.
A spokesman said there were still no plans to suspend parliament to prevent the spread of the virus. “We are closely following guidance from Public Health England (PHE) in response to the situation and have been reassured that the measures we are taking are proportionate and appropriate,” he said.
“At present there are no plans to suspend parliament. Changes to the way parliament functions would be a matter for consultation between the Speakers, the government and the parliamentary authorities.”
A government source told PA Media that officials and MPs should continue to go to work in Whitehall and parliament unless told otherwise, saying chief medical officer advice was that “no one needs to self-isolate or be tested unless asked to by the PHE contact tracers who are working round the clock”.
There was no immediate response to Dorries’ diagnosis from No 10.