No 10 casts doubt on imminent return to work for Boris Johnson | Politics

Doubts have been cast on Boris Johnson’s rumoured return to frontline politics on Monday, with Downing Street saying he is yet to work on his “red box” of official papers as usual and is being guided by his medical team.

However in a sign the prime minister is easing back into work, his official spokesman said he was regularly receiving updates to the coronavirus response and had calls with the first secretary of state, Dominic Raab, and the health secretary, Matt Hancock.

On Johnson returning to frontline work next week, the spokesman said: “He is speaking with colleagues and he is receiving regular updates, but in terms of when he is actually able to get back to work in No 10, he will take the advice of his medical team on that.

“He is receiving updates on the response and he has been taking part in the call with the president and had his audience with Her Majesty but he’s not doing red box in the usual way, no.”

Donald Trump had said Johnson sounded “incredible” in a phone call with him following his discharge from hospital, sparking speculation the prime minister was set to return to work.

The US president revealed details of their conversation at one of his regular press conferences in which he claimed Johnson, who was in intensive care with coronavirus earlier this month, sounded “ready to go”.

A report in the Daily Telegraph suggested Johnson could return to work on Monday. He has been recuperating at Chequers after being released from hospital on 12 April.

The health secretary told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme Johnson was “on the mend in a big way” but that his return to work was a matter for the doctors. Hancock described Johnson as “ebullient” while recovering at his country retreat, where he is said not to be doing official work.

The prime minister is said to have told aides to start scheduling catch-up meetings with individual cabinet ministers next week as he retakes the reins of the UK’s coronavirus response, and he may chair the cabinet meeting himself.

Raab, who is also foreign secretary, has been deputising for Johnson since he fell ill. This has involved him leading cabinet meetings as well as taking prime minister’s questions on Wednesday.

According to the Telegraph, Johnson has spent the past week increasing his workload in anticipation of his return and has spoken to Raab on a daily basis.

He is said to have been studying government papers and closely following parliamentary proceedings. The phone call with Trump involved a discussion on a UK-US trade deal.

How the UK will leave the lockdown and the way that will be communicated to the public will be among of his most pressing issues.

Trump told reporters in the US: “He was ready to go. I am very surprised to tell you this. It’s like the old Boris. Tremendous energy, tremendous drive. He called me pretty close to when he got out the hospital. I think he’s doing great. He’s so sharp and energetic, pretty incredible.

“He’s a friend of ours, a friend of mine.”

Johnson told the public about his coronavirus diagnosis on 27 March and that he would isolate in his flat at No 11 Downing Street for a week.

After seven days, No 10 said he would not be returning to frontline work as his temperature had persisted. On 5 April he was admitted to St Thomas’ hospital, where he was placed in intensive care on 7 April and treated with oxygen. He was released five days later.

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