London (CNN)The coronavirus has found its way to Boris Johnson for the second time in a year. The British Prime Minister, who overcame a serious brush with the virus earlier this year, is self-quarantining again after he came in close contact at Downing Street with a lawmaker who subsequently tested positive.
Questions over social distancing at Downing Street after Boris Johnson goes into quarantine
That the Prime Minister's official residence has once again become the location of a coronavirus outbreak has raised serious questions not just about how the UK government is handling the pandemic in the country, but how it's dealing with the risk inside its own buildings.
This time, Johnson's forced quarantine stemmed from an event attended by lawmakers on Thursday. Photos show Johnson standing unmasked and within two meters of several of these Members of Parliament, including Lee Anderson, who later tested positive for Covid-19. Others who attended the meeting have since confirmed that they too are self-quarantining, including two of the Prime Minister's political aides.
The building that hosted the gathering, 10 Downing Street, is not just the official home of the Prime Minister, but a place of work for hundreds more officials and advisers. It is a mixture of grand reception rooms and meeting rooms, where the Prime Minister hosts events and holds political meetings, and cramped, narrow corridors with leading to poorly ventilated offices where civil servants, political advisers and other support staff work.
Government staff have described to CNN their concerns at working in these conditions during a global pandemic, suggesting that in such cramped conditions, social distancing is nigh on impossible. One Downing Street insider explained that while the building had been made Covid secure by imposing measures such as one-way systems for the narrow corridors, in practice it is as hard to avoid people in the office space as ever before.
At the earlier stages of the pandemic, several staff working inside government buildings told CNN that they were concerned the inner circle of Johnson were acting as though they believed the virus would never make it as far as the heart of government, and that they were somehow invincible. These fears were exacerbated by incidents like Johnson saying publicly on March 3 that while visiting a hospital where he believed there were Covid patients he "shook hands with everybody."