LONDON: A pedestrian, wearing a mask, walks past the Bank of England on Wednesday as Britain braces itself for an increase in coronavirus cases.—AFP
LONDON: A pedestrian, wearing a mask, walks past the Bank of England on Wednesday as Britain braces itself for an increase in coronavirus cases.—AFP

LONDON: British MP Nadine Dorries, a minister in the health department, has tested positive for coronavirus, she said in a statement, raising concerns about whether senior government figures have been infected.

“I can confirm I have tested positive for coronavirus... and have been self-isolating at home,” said the Conservative MP on Tuesday.

Health officials were trying to trace where she contracted the virus and who she had been in contact with, she added.

At least six people have died in Britain from the virus, with more than 370 confirmed cases.

Dorries, who helped craft the legislation to fight the bug, is the first British politician to be diagnosed with COVID-19.

The Times reported that she had been in touch with hundreds of people, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

She fell unwell on Friday while signing the document that declared coronavirus a “notifiable” disease, meaning companies could obtain insurance cover, said the newspaper, adding she was now believed to be on the road to recovery.

“I would like to thank... the wonderful NHS staff who have provided me with advice and support,” she said, referring to Britain’s National Health Service.

The shock news increased calls to suspend parliament, despite the government’s reluctance to do so in the middle of a health crisis.

Her boss Matt Hancock, who is leading Britain’s response to the deadly virus, tweeted that he was “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,” he added. PHE refers to Public Health England.

“We will do all we can to keep people safe, based on the best possible science.”

Meanwhile, the British government and Bank of England on Wednesday launched a coordinated emergency response to the country’s “significant but temporary” economic impact from the coronavirus, pledging fiscal stimulus worth 30 billion pounds and slashing interest rates to a record-low 0.25 per cent.

The effects of COVID-19 “will have a significant impact on the UK economy — but it will be temporary”, Finance Minister Rishi Sunak told parliament in the first post-Brexit budget featuring the stimulus to help small businesses struck down by disruptions to supply chains and an absent workforce.

There is likely to be a “temporary disruption” to the economy while up to a fifth of the UK’s working-age population could be off sick at any one time, Chancellor of the Exchequer Sunak warned.

Published in Dawn, March 12th, 2020

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