London , Mar 27 : The prime minister, Boris Johnson, has tested positive for coronavirus and is self-isolating.
In a video message recorded shortly after he remotely chaired the regular early-morning Covid-19 “war cabinet” today, the PM said that he had been suffering from a temperature and a persistent cough and had been advised to take a test by chief medical officer Chris Whitty.
Mr Johnson said that he was working from home and would continue to “lead the national fightback against coronavirus”.
It is understood that his partner Carrie Symonds, who is pregnant, is not undertaking self-isolation with him in the flat they share above 11 Downing Street, but is staying elsewhere.
Mr Johnson is believed to be the first major world leader to test positive for the virus. Foreign secretary Dominic Raab has been designated to take up the reins of power if the prime minister is incapacitated, but Mr Johnson’s spokesman said that had not so far been necessary as his symptoms were mild and he was “getting on with the job”.
Mr Johnson’s diagnosis will raise wider concerns because he has been in contact over recent days and weeks with many of those at the forefront of the UK’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, including Prof Whitty, chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance and health secretary Matt Hancock, as well as other senior members of the cabinet.
In a message on his Twitter feed, the PM said: “Over the last 24 hours I have developed mild symptoms and tested positive for coronavirus.
“I am now self-isolating, but I will continue to lead the government’s response via video-conference as we fight this virus. Together we will beat this. #StayHomeSaveLives.”
The prime minister was last seen in public on Thursday evening when he emerged at the famous black door of 10 Downing Street to join in the national Clap for Our Carers display of support for NHS workers. He was joined by chancellor Rishi Sunak, and the pair observed social distancing advice to keep at least two metres apart.
Mr Johnson spoke at the regular 10 Downing Street press conference on Wednesday, but Thursday’s conference was led instead by the chancellor, who announced a package of assistance for self-employed workers. Downing Street said that Mr Johnson will not be able to take part in the daily conferences while he is self-isolating.
Mr Johnson is known to have been in contact over recent weeks with the Prince of Wales, who has also tested positive for coronavirus. The pair met at a Commonwealth Day service in Westminster Abbey on 9 March. Imperial College scientist Neil Ferguson was also diagnosed with coronavirus days after visiting 10 Downing Street.
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His spokesman said it had been a “significant period of time” since the PM met the Queen face-to-face, as their weekly audiences were conducted by telephone for at least the last fortnight.
It is not clear at this point how Mr Johnson contracted the illness, though it is known that other members of Downing Street staff had previously self-isolated because they were showing symptoms.
His official spokesman said that he noticed symptoms on Thursday afternoon, was tested in 10 Downing Street and received the results at around midnight last night and immediately went into self isolation.
The spokesman declined to comment on where Ms Symonds was staying, but said that the medical advice in Mr Johnson’s case was that he should self-isolate for seven days.
The seven-day guidance applies only to people living alone, while those sharing their homes with family members are told to self-isolate for 14 days, to give time to be sure whether others have caught the infection from them.
“The prime minister of course follows all of the guidelines which have been issued by Public Health England in full, and his circumstance is such that he will be required to self-isolate for seven days,” said the spokesman.
Source : BBC