Coronavirus UK live: Boris Johnson 'not doing government work in Chequers'

By Nicola Slawson (now); Gregory Robinson and Jessica Murray(earlier)


667 new deaths have been recorded in England today



Hi, this is Nicola Slawson in sunny Shropshire, UK. I’m taking back the reins of the liveblog now.

As before, please do share any thoughts, insight or news tips with me via any of the channels below. I might not have time to respond to all of you but I will certainly try and read them. Thank you.

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The UK has conducted 18,000 coronavirus tests in 24 hours

Here are the top lines from the lobby briefing today:

  • Downing Street said the number of people being tested for coronavirus is running at 18,000 a day. That is well short of the target of 100,000 tests a day set by Matt Hancock, the health secretary, for the end of the month, and short of the 25,000-a-day target that Boris Johnson said he hoped to achieve within a month on 18 March. But the prime minister’s spokesman refused to accept that the government was behind schedule. He said that there were now 23 drive-through sites where people could be tested. “New capacity is coming on-stream all the time,” he said.
  • The cabinet may not be involved in the decision on extending the lockdown, the prime minister’s spokesman revealed. Although it normally meets on a Tuesday, no meeting has been scheduled for tomorrow. With Boris Johnson recovering at Chequers after his spell in intensive care, Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary and first secretary of state, is deputising in his absence. The government has to take a decision about extending the lockdown by Thursday, which is when the regulations covering England need to be reviewed. The spokesman did not say exactly how or when this would be taken, but he said the main work coordinating the government’s response to coronavirus was being taken by the morning No 10 meeting, which is chaired by Raab, and by the four coronavirus ministerial groups. The spokesman said that any decision to extend the lockdown would have to be reviewed again after three weeks. It is thought inevitable that the lockdown will be extended, and the spokesman told journalists that when the decision is formally announced, the government would “set out the reasoning behind the decision as soon as it is taken”.
  • Johnson is not doing any government work in Chequers, the spokesman said. He told journalists: “The prime minister is focusing on his recovery and he is not currently carrying out government work.” And the PM is not receiving red boxes containing government papers at the moment, the spokesman said. The spokesman said he did not receive any while he was in hospital. A briefing early last week suggesting that he would be getting red boxes turned out to be wrong, the spokesman said, because the PM’s condition deteriorated.
  • The spokesman denied claims that No 10 had given misleading accounts of how ill the prime minister was. It was put to the spokesman that the PM’s own account yesterday of how he might have died contrasted with reports that he was only admitted to hospital as a precaution and that he was “in good spirits” throughout his time there. The spokesman said all the information given to journalists “was provided by St Thomas’ Hospital”.
  • The spokesman defended the decision to test Michael Gove’s daughter for coronavirus. After she developed coronavirus symptoms Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, said he would be self-isolating with her and the rest of his family at home, in line with government guidelines, but today it emerged that Gove is no longer self-isolating because his daughter tested negative. The spokesman said this was done on the advice of Prof Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, because Gove is one of the figures leading the government’s response to coronavirus. Asked why he could not work from home, the spokesman said Gove chairs one of the key ministerial groups dealing with coronavirus (the one covering the public sector as a whole) and it was “beneficial” for him to be able to go into the office.
  • The spokesman said that the Department for Health and Social Care was committed to carrying out a full investigation into the death of every NHS worker from coronavirus.





Good afternoon. I’m Gregory Robinson, taking over the UK live blog for the next hour. If you want to follow me or contact me on Twitter to share insight or send tips, I’m on @Gregoryjourno or send me an email at








A total of 575 patients have died in Scotland, up by nine on Sunday