Was Boris Johnson's baby born early, and will he take paternity leave? Everything we know so far

Gordon Rayner
Was Boris Johnson's baby born early, and will he take paternity leave? - AFP
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Boris Johnson and his fiancee Carrie Symonds celebrated the birth of their first child in the early hours of Wednesday, just 17 days after the Prime Minister left hospital after beating coronavirus.

The couple’s son, who has yet to be given a name, is the Prime Minister’s sixth child and was born on only his third day back at work after his sick leave.

A spokeswoman for the Prime Minister and his partner said: "The Prime Minister and Ms Symonds are thrilled to announce the birth of a healthy baby boy at a London hospital earlier this morning. Both mother and baby are doing very well.

"The PM and Ms Symonds would like to thank the fantastic NHS maternity team."

The baby will become arguably the highest-profile newborn in the country, with lots of questions still outstanding about his birth and his future.

When and where was the baby born and was the PM present?

Downing Street said that Mr Johnson was “present throughout” the birth of his son, which was at an NHS hospital in London. Officials have so far refused to name the hospital for “security reasons” but there was speculation that the location was St Thomas’s Hospital, just across the Thames from the Houses of Parliament and the same hospital that Mr Johnson credited with saving his life after he was admitted to intensive care there with coronavirus.

The baby was born in the early hours of Wednesday but no details have been given about the exact time or his weight.

Number 10 scotched any suggestion that the couple used a private wing within an NHS hospital, saying the baby was delivered by “an NHS team in an NHS hospital”.

Read more: A look at Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds' relationship

Did PM get special treatment to be at the birth, despite lockdown?

Having survived coronavirus, the Prime Minister, 55, might be seen as a risk-free visitor to a hospital, as it means he is likely to have immunity to catching the virus and will not be a carrier.

However, Downing Street insisted he was treated the same way as any other expectant father.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister said: “The PM followed the rules set out by the hospital.”

At St Thomas’s the rules state that, “For women in labour only one companion will be allowed. This companion can stay for the duration of labour but will need to leave six hours after delivery or earlier if the mother is transferred to another area”.

Mr Johnson had returned to Downing Street by lunchtime, and was quickly back at work.

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Did the baby arrive early and was it a natural birth?

When the couple announced at the end of February that they were expecting a child and planned to get married, they said the baby would be born in the “early summer”.

Asked if April was what they classed as early summer, Downing St remained tight-lipped, saying “we are not going to go into details of the pregancy or birth”. The same answer was given to questions about whether the birth was by caesarian section and whether the delivery had been planned for that date.

However, the fact that officials had spent two days dodging questions about whether Mr Johnson would appear at Wednesday's Prime Minister’s Questions suggests they were aware for more than a day that the birth was imminent.

There is also some scientific evidence that mothers who catch Covid-19 are more likely to give birth prematurely. Earlier this month, Ms Symonds, 32, had to self-isolate after suffering symptoms of the virus, though she was never tested to confirm if she had it.

Prof Alexander Heazell, Professor of Obstetrics and Director of the Tommy's Research Centre, University of Manchester, said that a review of women suffering coronavirus in pregnancy “thus far” had suggested the preterm birth rate was roughly double the normal rate.

No 10 refused to say whether the baby had been tested for coronavirus.

If the baby was born at full term, it means he was conceived on or around July 24 last year. The couple moved into Downing Street on July 29.

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What will the couple call their son?

The baby’s name has not yet been released, but bookies installed Alexander - the Prime Minister’s real first name - Wilfred, James and Matthew as early favourites. Matthew is the name of Ms Symonds’s father.

Winston, the name of the Prime Minister’s great hero, Churchill, was an 8-1 shot with William Hill, while Stanley, the name of the child’s paternal grandfather, was 14-1 and Boris Jr was offered by Betfair at 33-1.

Other traditional names, including Charles, Harry, Oliver, David and Albert, were also among early favourites, while anyone who thinks the couple will name their son Donald after the US President can get odds of 100-1. Ladbrokes was offering 1000-1 on the baby being called Brexit.

Read more: Boris Johnson baby name odds

Popular boys' names since 1904 with Wilfred as default

Will the Prime Minister take paternity leave?

Yes, but not yet. Downing Street said Mr Johnson, who had previously signalled his intention to take a fortnight’s leave when his baby was born, would delay his leave in order to carry on leading the national fight against coronavirus.

Although he missed Prime Minister’s Questions, he was back in Downing Street and working within hours of the birth, keeping an appointment to speak to Sir Keir Starmer for the first time since he became Leader of the Opposition.

He will also chair Cabinet on Thursday morning and is expected to address the nation before the end of the week, possibly at one of the daily press conferences.

According to the Government’s own rules, paternity leave must end within 56 days of the child’s birth, meaning Mr Johnson must take his leave before the end of June - a tall order given the crisis currently gripping the country.

The other alternative is for the PM to simply take annual leave later in the year, possibly in July or August when Prime Ministers traditionally take their summer break.

Where will the family live?

The couple currently live in the flat above 11, Downing Street, which is larger than the flat above No 10, and it was from there that Ms Symonds was taken to hospital.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister said: “They are planning to live in the flat above No 11.”

On March 19, four days before the lockdown, a delivery man dropped off a large box at No 10 marked “organic knit moses basket set”, while on Wednesday two cases of champagne were delivered.

The new arrival will not affect the status of the couple’s dog, Dilyn, which is apparently child-friendly. “Dilyn is staying,” said the spokesman.

The couple will also be able to take their baby to Chequers, the Prime Minister’s country retreat, at weekends.

Downing Street declined to say whether the couple intended to hire a nanny.

Read more: Meet Boris Johnson's children

Carrie Symonds, partner of Britain's Prime Minister, holds their dog, a Jack Russell-cross named Dilyn - AFP

Will the couple's grandparents be able to see the baby?

Stanley Johnson, the Prime Minister’s father, said he was “absolutely delighted” and “thrilled” about the arrival of his latest grandson.

The fact that Boris and, almost certainly, Ms Symonds have had coronavirus means they may feel able to meet their older relatives, but neither Stanley nor Ms Symonds’s parents, Matthew Symonds and Josephine McAfee, are expected to visit any time soon. Downing Street said the family would be abiding by social distancing rules, meaning the grandparents are likely to have their first meeting with the new baby over Skype, FaceTime or Zoom.

Stanley Johnson said: “I’m actually down in Somerset, 100 miles away, I’d have to get special permission so I’m not sure that’s possible at the moment.”

Ms Symonds’s parents both live in London but will not be able to visit her in hospital because of strict visiting rules and will also be prevented from going to Downing Street because of social distancing rules.

What is the latest on the couple's marriage plans?

The couple have never disclosed when they intend to get married, and Downing Street declined to offer any update on Wednesday.

Weddings are currently banned in the UK because of coronavirus lockdown measures, and are not expected to be allowed at any point in the near future.

Discussions in Government about what restrictions could be eased first have never included weddings, meaning the couple cannot make any concrete plans for now.

The couple became engaged at the end of last year but only announced their engagement on February 29, the same day they shared the news that they were expecting a baby.