LONDON (REUTERS, AFP, BLOOMBERG) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was admitted to hospital for tests on Sunday (April 5) in what Downing Street said was a “precautionary step” because he was showing persistent symptoms of coronavirus 10 days after testing positive for the virus.
Johnson, who was isolating in Downing Street after testing positive last month, still had a high temperature and so his doctors felt he should go to hospital for tests. He remains in charge of the British government, his Downing Street office said.
“On the advice of his doctor, the prime minister has tonight been admitted to hospital for tests,” Downing Street said.
“This is a precautionary step, as the prime minister continues to have persistent symptoms of coronavirus ten days after testing positive for the virus,” the statement added.
News of his hospitalisation came only after an hour after Queen Elizabeth delivered a rallying call to the British public saying they would overcome the coronavirus outbreak if they stayed resolute.
Johnson, 55, on March 27 became the first leader of a major power to announce that he had tested positive. He went into isolation at an apartment in Downing Street and said on Friday he was staying there as he still had a high temperature.
“Although I’m feeling better and I’ve done my seven days of isolation, alas I still have one of the symptoms, a minor symptom, I still have a temperature,” a weary-looking Johnson, sitting in a chair with his shirt open at the neck, said in a Twitter video message on Friday.
Downing Street underscored that this was not an emergency admission and that Johnson remains in charge of the government.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab will chair the government’s emergency Covid-19 meeting on Monday, a source said.
With only an unwieldy collection of sometimes ancient and contradictory precedents to go by, there is no simple, formally-enshrined “Plan B” or succession scenario if the prime minister is incapacitated.
The pound briefly fell 0.4 per cent vs the US dollar to $1.2215 before trimming some losses to trade at $1.2230, down 0.3%.
Johnson was taken to an unidentified hospital on Sunday evening. Downing Street refused to say what tests Johnson was to have in hospital.
Queen Elizabeth has been informed of Johnson’s admission to hospital, Buckingham Palace said. It made no further comment.
The Downing Street announcement came as the 93-year-old queen offered a message of hope to everyone affected by the global pandemic. Britain currently has 47,806 confirmed hospital cases and 4,934 deaths. The monarch’s eldest son, heir to the throne Prince Charles, has tested positive after displaying mild symptoms.
The newly elected leader of the opposition Labour Party, Keir Starmer, offered his best wishes. “Wishing the prime minister well and a speedy recovery,” he said.
US President Donald Trump said he was “hopeful and sure” Johnson, who was hospitalised for further coronavirus tests after testing positive, would recover.
“He is a friend of mine, he is a great gentleman, a great leader. He was brought to the hospital today but I am hopeful and sure that he is going to be fine,” Trump said at his White House briefing. “He is a strong man, a strong person.”
CORONAVIRUS IN THE UK
Johnson’s personal health problems add to the sense of confusion surrounding the UK’s response. He has faced criticism in the United Kingdom for initially approving a much more modest response to the novel coronavirus outbreak than other major European leaders.
Unlike in some other countries the UK has not conducted widespread testing to gather reliable data on infections, instead advising anyone with symptoms of a cough or a fever to self-isolate at home.
But he swiftly changed tack when projections showed a quarter of a million people could die in the United Kingdom.
He effectively shuttered the world’s fifth-largest economy, advising people to stay at home and the elderly or infirm to isolate themselves for weeks.
The virus, however, penetrated the British government. Johnson and his health minister Matt Hancock tested positive last month but was back at work on Friday and his chief medical adviser, Chris Whitty, also self isolated after displaying symptoms.
Hancock on Sunday described Johnson’s condition as “OK” and said he had been in “good spirits”.
Carrie Symonds, Johnson’s 32-year-old pregnant fiancée, said on Saturday that she had spent the past week in bed with symptoms of the novel coronavirus but after seven days of rest felt stronger and was on the mend.
Experts said the most likely tests for a person of the prime minister’s age with Covid-19 symptoms after 10 days would be to assess oxygen levels and an electrocardiogram check of his heart.
“Doctors will be monitoring important vital signs such as oxygen saturations,” said Dr Rupert Beale, Group Leader, Cell Biology of Infection Laboratory at the Francis Crick Institute.
“They will also check blood tests to see what the immune response to the virus looks like, and to assess liver and kidney function.” Other tests could include a CT scan of the chest to get an accurate picture of the lungs.
“The prime minister thanks NHS staff for all of their incredible hard work and urges the public to continue to follow the government’s advice to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives,” Downing Street said.
British media on Sunday reported disputes at the top of government over the exit strategy, with finance minister Rishi Sunak pushing for a path to be mapped out towards lifting the restrictions to help limit damage to the economy.
Hancock denied there was any rift. “We are working very closely together, and what matters is that we can get out of this as fast as possible,” he told Sky News.