Boris Johnson is unlikely to be seen in public for the next week after a member of his immediate family tested positive for Covid, Downing Street has said.
While self-isolation for contacts of coronavirus cases is no longer mandatory, Johnson’s spokesman said the prime minister would heed guidance to limit outside contacts as much as possible for seven days after the test.
The spokesman declined to say whether it was Johnson’s wife, Carrie, or one of the couple’s two young children who had tested positive, saying only that it was an immediate family member with whom the PM lived.
The period stuck inside No 10 comes at an arguably fortuitous time for Johnson, who faces intense scrutiny over his attendance at a social event in the No 10 garden during the first lockdown in May 2020.
The prime minister had been scheduled to visit a vaccination centre in Lancashire on Thursday, where he would have been expected to face his first media questions about his apology for attending the event, and his excuse that he believed the bring-your-own-drinks gathering had been a work meeting.
Johnson’s spokesman said: “The PM is following guidance to do daily tests and limit contact with others. The positive test was Wednesday, so the PM will continue in this guidance up until and including Tuesday of next week.
“In line with the guidance, he’s reducing contact. He’ll be working from No 10, doing daily tests and limiting contact with others both outside No 10 and indeed inside No 10 as well, having limited contact with others in the building, and conducting meetings online.”
Asked if this meant Johnson would not be spotted for the next week, the spokesman said: “In line with the guidance, which is to limit close contact as much as possible and to work from home as much as possible, you wouldn’t expect the prime minister to go outside of that guidance. But that doesn’t necessarily preclude him doing any media interviews.”
Government guidance says immediate contacts of people who test positive are “strongly advised” to take daily tests, and to “limit close contact with other people outside your household”.
Johnson usually films a brief, pooled broadcast interview on visits such as the one scheduled for Thursday, and would inevitably have faced questions both about the alleged party and about calls for him to resign from some of his MPs after he admitted attending it.
In a statement before prime minister’s questions on Wednesday, Johnson accepted for the first time that he had been at the 20 May 2020 gathering and that this was a mistake, while also attempting to defend his actions.
Saying the No 10 garden was at the time routinely used as “an extension of the office”, Johnson argued that he had believed the event was a work gathering, and that the event “could be said, technically, to fall within the guidance”.
While the prime minister and a series of cabinet ministers said people should now wait for an inquiry into the 20 May event and other alleged lockdown parties, being led by the senior civil servant Sue Gray, Johnson has faced calls to quit now.
After Johnson’s statement, one of the Conservatives’ most senior backbenchers, William Wragg, and Douglas Ross, the leader of the party in Scotland, publicly called for Johnson to resign, saying his position had become untenable.