Boris Johnson has warned his top ministers the coronavirus crisis “is going to get worse before it gets better” at the first cabinet meeting in history to be held entirely on a video call.
The prime minister on Tuesday chaired a cabinet meeting in which ministers all appeared on a single screen.
Only Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill and a small number of officials were in the cabinet room in 10 Downing Street itself.
They kept two metres apart in accordance with the government’s social distancing rules, Number 10 said.
Mr Johnson, who is currently self-isolating at 11 Downing Street after testing positive for COVID-19, used the meeting to tell his ministers: “The situation is going to get worse before it gets better – but it will get better.”
He also stressed the rising number of coronavirus deaths in recent days showed the importance of Britons sticking to social distancing rules, Number 10 added.
The cabinet discussed their work in supporting the NHS, attempting to safeguard jobs and bringing home British citizens who are stranded abroad.
Ministers also discussed the government’s aim to expand the number of coronavirus tests, following criticism of the low level of testing in the UK compared to other countries such as Germany and South Korea.
England’s chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty – who is also self-isolating – and the government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, joined the meeting by video call.
Last week, Mr Johnson chaired a cabinet meeting from the cabinet room in 10 Downing Street alongside Health Secretary Matt Hancock, Sir Mark and Prof Whitty.
All other attendees appeared via video conferencing app Zoom.
Since that meeting, Mr Hancock has joined the prime minister and Prof Whitty by self-isolating after he also tested positive for coronavirus.
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The use of Zoom prompted concerns about how secure the app is for government meetings.
But the Cabinet Office defended its use.
A spokesperson said: “In the current unprecedented circumstances the need for effective channels of communication are vital.
“National Cyber Security Centre guidance shows there is no security reason for Zoom not to be used for conversations below a certain classification.”