London – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Friday that he has tested positive for the new coronavirus, claiming to continue to lead his country’s response to the pandemic that threatens to overwhelm hospitals in the United Kingdom.
Health Minister Matt Hancock said he was also positive, saying he had “mild symptoms”. After Prince Charles, also affected but in good health according to his services, cases are multiplying in the country, affected at the highest level of the state.
Before the 55-year-old conservative leader, only Prince Albert II of Monaco had been officially infected with COVID-19 among heads of state and government, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau placed in isolation after being in contact with persons tested positive.
“I have developed mild symptoms in the past 24 hours and have tested positive for coronavirus,” said Boris Johnson on Twitter. “I remain confined but I will continue to lead the government’s response by video conference as we fight the virus,” he wrote, adding, “together, we will beat it.”
In a video posted on the same social network, he explained that he had a fever and a “persistent cough” and that he had a test on the advice of doctors. Appearing in shape, sitting at his desk in a tie suit, he thanked “all those who do what I do, work from home, in order to stop the spread of this virus from home to home”.
He will remain confined to his apartment in Downing Street for seven days, said his spokesman later, a duration half as long as recommended.
His partner Carrie Symonds is expecting a baby for the summer. According to several British media, she does not currently reside in Downing Street, remaining confined in accordance with the recommendations made to pregnant women.
If Boris Johnson is unable to work, it will be the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dominic Raab, who will temporarily assume the role of prime minister, the government interviewed this week said on this possibility.
Other ministers or politicians could be infected. The head of government answered questions from MPs Wednesday in the House of Commons and posed Thursday evening alongside Finance Minister Rishi Sunak, applauding health care workers in front of 10 Downing Street.
Over 500 dead
The news of his illness shows that “everyone is likely to be infected,” said Jonathan Ball, professor of molecular virology at the University of Nottingham, in a statement.
He notes that “It is exactly the mild syndromes” experienced by Boris Johnson “that allowed this virus to spread so widely”.
As soon as the news was known, several personalities, including the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, or the Director General of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, sent their wishes for recovery to Boris Johnson.
This shock announcement comes after a positive diagnosis affecting Prince Charles, 71 years old.
Queen Elizabeth II, 93, has been at Windsor Castle since March 19, about 40 kilometers west of London.
The sovereign is in “good health”, assured Friday the palace of Buckingham Palace. She last met with the Prime Minister on March 11, their last two weekly telephone interviews being held by telephone.
The spread of COVID-19 has accelerated in recent days in the UK, with authorities recording 115 deaths in 24 hours. The latest count is 578 deaths linked to the disease and 11,658 cases of officially registered contamination, the government announced on Thursday, which on Monday ordered people to stay at home to curb the spread of the virus.
London, one of the largest European cities, is particularly affected, with an influx of patients qualified Thursday as “tsunami” by an official of the public health service.