Boris Johnson today warned his cabinet that Britain was facing "bumpier months" in the fight against coronavirus when he personally met with its senior ministers for the first time in four and a half months.
The cabinet met this morning in the large Locarno Suite at the Federal Foreign Office – selected because it offers more space than number 10 – when they met inside without wearing face masks.
Mr. Johnson has now finally given up hosting the weekly Zoom meeting when he and the government are trying to set an example after asking the nation to return to their desks last week.
Downing Street had insisted that the ministers sit at least three feet apart and be asked to wash their hands at the beginning and end of the meeting.
In the meantime, all present were given their own water jug and their own glass to avoid contamination.
Despite the government's official guidelines that people who work together should "wear face covers when indoor distances of two meters are not possible," no one had to wear a mask.
Mr Johnson told his ministers that there was an urgent need to "get our economy going" as he signaled that the UK's recovery from the coronavirus crisis will take some time.
Opening of the meeting Mr. Johnson said there would be & # 39;Difficult months are ahead for our people and our country, but nobody will be without hope. "
"We will do better to dismantle and deal with this crisis more than ever," he said. "And for the next few months we have to find a balance – we have to keep this virus under control and keep it under control in the heroic way that the British people have managed to date.
"But we also have to be careful as we adhere to the rules of social distancing, get our economy going, and get our people back to work."
Boris Johnson called his cabinet for his first face-to-face meeting in four and a half months this morning when the Prime Minister and his senior ministers gathered without face masks
Boris Johnson made a joke about the large space needed to allow a socially distant cabinet meeting at the Federal Foreign Office. He said to his team of ministers: "Welcome to the Locarno Suite, the idea of the Federal Foreign Office of a humble seminar room that is so opulent that we can both observe social distance and meet the whole cabinet face to face. I am Sure, you will agree that this is the right thing to do, because we need – everyone needs – the energy and stimulation that comes from face-to-face meetings – nothing is as good as propinquality, I think someone said it once
It is the first time in almost five months that the cabinet has met in person
Downing Street said ministers were asked to sit at least three feet apart, but were not asked to wear face masks. Mr. Johnson sits next to Chancellor Rishi Sunak
The Locarno conference room in the Federal Foreign Office will be used for cabinet meetings for the foreseeable future
Downing Street had said Mr. Johnson was going to give the workers an example after revealing a schedule last week to further ease the lockdown and get more workers back to their desks.
He lifted restrictions on the use of public transportation and workers are encouraged to resume normal commuting in August to breathe life back into retail and hospitality businesses.
The last personal meeting of the cabinet took place on March 17, before the blockade began.
Mr. Johnson has since met ministers remotely with video conferencing equipment.
His official spokesman told reporters yesterday: "As we move forward with coronavirus recovery and more people return to work personally, the prime minister believed it was right for the cabinet to meet and hold a face-to-face meeting.
"Essentially, we're going to follow all of the Covid-safe guidelines we've set for companies when considering such a meeting."
When asked whether the ministers would wear facewear, he added: "I don't expect that."
He added: “It is a large room selected by the State and Commonwealth Office and it is properly ventilated. With regard to the steps being taken, there will be a supply of hand sanitizers and cabinet members will have individual water jugs and glasses and they will be socially distant. So that's at least a meter. & # 39;
Ministers usually crowd around the famous coffin-shaped table at 10 Downing Street.
Today they used the huge Locarno Suite of the Federal Foreign Office, which was converted into a temporary cabinet room.
The richly decorated, gold-painted cabins, known as the "Salon of the Nation", usually house the world's leading figures.
However, it is expected that Mr. Johnson's 26-strong team will be accommodated in the premises until the Covid 19 crisis is over.
The last personal meeting of the cabinet took place on March 17, before the coronavirus was blocked
Mr. Johnson has since met remote ministers with video conferencing equipment including zoom
This happened when Mr. Johnson's government came under fire for its "illogical" advice on face coverings. Scientists asked ministers to make them compulsory both at work and in public transport.
At a briefing on Friday, Mr. Johnson set out his schedule for further easing the coronavirus restrictions and hoped that the UK would return to an almost normal state by Christmas.
Sir Patrick and Professor Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer, were both absent from the Prime Minister's press conference, further sparking speculation about a worsening split between ministers and their experts.
Sir Patrick, who appeared before the MPs on Thursday, said there was "absolutely no reason" to change the current work of the home tour.
He said Britain was "still at a time when distancing is important" and remote working "remains a perfectly good option".
He went even further when he said that many companies had found that working from home was not "detrimental to productivity" and that there was therefore no need to deviate from politics.