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Britain’s PM Johnson, health minister both test positive for coronavirus

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson made his first announcement about the coronavirus remotely on March 25, 2020.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson made his first announcement about the coronavirus remotely on March 25, 2020. © Andrew Parsons, 10 Downing Street Via REUTERS

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday he had tested positive for coronavirus and was self-isolating but would still lead the government’s response to the outbreak.

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A Downing Street spokesman said Johnson, 55, experienced mild symptoms on Thursday, a day after his weekly question-and-answer session in parliament’s House of Commons.

“Over the last 24 hours I have developed mild symptoms and tested positive for coronavirus,” Johnson said. “I am now self-isolating, but I will continue to lead the government’s response via video-conference as we fight this virus.”

 

Hours after the prime minister’s announcement, the UK's Health Minister Matt Hancock said on twitter he too had tested positive for COVID-19.

 

It was not immediately clear how many Downing Street staff and senior ministers would now need to isolate given that many have had contact with Johnson over recent days and weeks. Nor was it apparent whether Johnson's 32-year-old partner, Carrie Symonds, who is pregnant, had been tested.

“The prime minister was tested for coronavirus on the personal advice of England’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty,” the spokesman said.

“The test was carried out in No 10 by NHS staff and the result of the test was positive,” the spokesman said.

Previously the government has said that Johnson had the option to delegate to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab if needed.

Meals at the door

Johnson will have his meals delivered to the door of an apartment at Number 11 Downing Street, while he self-isolates for seven days from the warren of corridors and rooms that make up the seat of British political power at Number 10 Downing Street.

"The doors between Number 10 and Number 11 have been closed off to all other staff who work in the building," a Downing Street spokesman said. "The PM will work from the office and the study in Number 11."

His finance minister, Rishi Sunak, who traditionally works out of Number 11 Downing Street, is not self-isolating, a Treasury source said.

When Britain clapped health workers on Thursday evening, Johnson and Sunak came out of separate entrances on Downing Street and did not come into close contact, according to a Reuters photographer at the scene.

By late Thursday, the death toll in Britain had risen to 759 people from 578 representing a 31 percent increase in 24 hours. The number of confirmed cases rose to 14,579.

The UK toll is the seventh worst in the world, after Italy, Spain, China, Iran, France and the United States, according to a Reuters tally.

In Royal health

Queen Elizabeth last saw Johnson on March 11 and she remains in good health, Buckingham Palace said. The 93-year-old monarch usually sees the prime minister once a week but has recently conducted the regular audience by telephone.

"The Queen last saw the PM on the 11th March and is following all the appropriate advice with regards to her welfare," a palace spokesman said.

Britain’s Prince Charles, the 71-year-old heir to the British throne, tested positive for coronavirus earlier this week but is in good health and is now self-isolating at his residence in Scotland with mild symptoms, along with his wife Camilla, who tested negative, his office said.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

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