Boris Johnson’s press secretary, Allegra Stratton, has become the latest key government figure to be forced to self-isolate under coronavirus rules, days after Matt Hancock had to do so after being alerted by the test-and-trace app.
Stratton – an ex-journalist and former aide to Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, who moved to Downing Street to become the face of still-to-begin televised No 10 press briefings – will not be at work all next week, it is understood.
It is not known why she was forced to self-isolate, or precisely how long the period will last.
On Tuesday, Hancock, the health secretary, said he had been “pinged” by the NHS app and would stay at home until this Sunday. While the standard self-isolation period is 10 days, this dates from the time of the contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus.
In November, Boris Johnson had to self-isolate after a 35-minute meeting with a group of Conservative MPs from the Midlands and north of England in Downing Street, one of whom subsequently tested positive for Covid-19.
A photograph of the event showed Johnson, who was seriously ill with coronavirus in April, standing with Lee Anderson MP seemingly less than 2 metres apart with neither wearing a mask.
Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, has had to self-isolate twice, once because of a family member showing possible symptoms, and then after a member of staff in his private office tested positive for coronavirus.
Stratton is a former print and television journalist with the Guardian, BBC and ITV. Johnson’s decision to make her the face of the government with the new briefings was identified as one factor behind the departure in November of the PM’s former head of communications, and longtime aide, Lee Cain. Dominic Cummings, Johnson’s chief aide, left Downing Street the next day.
The planned debut of the televised press briefings has been put on hold amid continued coronavirus restrictions, and some apparent uncertainty about how they will operate. In the interim, Stratton has been among staff briefing reporters during the daily Downing Street lobby briefing, now held remotely.