Boris Johnson and the Coronavirus – What is the Situation?
In the last few days, news outlets from all around the world have been talking about how Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, has been admitted to a hospital due to showing severe symptoms of COVID-19. Johnson’s team has been quick to assure the public that moving into a hospital was nothing but a routine checkup. Just recently, however, news broke of Johnson being transferred to the intensive care unit, which signaled to many that his condition was getting worse.
As the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson is so far the most high-profile case of COVID-19 around the world. Until now, no world leader had gotten infected with the virus. But as more and more people are getting infected by the virus, it is becoming very clear that COVID-19 does not differentiate based on race, status or income level. If you catch it, all you can do is hope that your immune system can cope with it. Because so far, there is no cure for COVID-19.
According to Downing Street, Prime Minister Boris Johnson was moved to the ICU because of worsening COVID-19 symptoms. At the same time, spokespeople assured the public that Johnson was receiving “excellent care”. While Johnson is incapacitated in the intensive care unit, he has asked his Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to take over his duties “where necessary”. What many people are not aware of is that in the United Kingdom, the Prime Minister has no official vice Prime Minister to take over in case something happens to the sitting PM. Instead, the Prime Minister or himself has to designate a person to take over their duties in case of an emergency. This is why Boris Johnson now named the Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to stand in for him, instead of an official “vice Prime Minister” taking over for him.
As a male of 55 years, Johnson sits firmly in the category of those that are statistically more severely affected by COVID-19. While there has been news of even centenarians recovering from COVID-19, the side of probability is certainly stacked against Johnson in his fight against COVID-19. On top of being in the category of those that are more affected by COVID-19 anyway, Johnson also used to be a smoker, which increases his risk further. All of these things have fed into speculations about Johnson’s real state, all the while official spokespeople insisted that despite experiencing “persistent symptoms”, Johnson was in a stable condition.
Just prior to being moved to the Intensive Care Unit, Johnson has reportedly already been given oxygen. At the same time, he did not receive ventilator treatment so far. In its official statement, No 10 (the residence of the Prime Minister) stated that: “The prime minister has been under the care of doctors at St Thomas’ Hospital, in London, after being admitted with persistent symptoms of coronavirus. Over the course of [Monday] afternoon, the condition of the prime minister has worsened and, on the advice of his medical team, he has been moved to the intensive care unit at the hospital. The PM is receiving excellent care, and thanks to all NHS staff for their hard work and dedication.”
Before the outbreak of COVID-19 in the United Kingdom, Johnson and his government had increasingly received criticism about the state of the UK healthcare system, the National Health Service (NHS). Due to years of privatization measures, the level of care for patients, the readiness of hospitals and other medical facilities to deal with increased numbers of patients and the number of medical professionals staffed in hospitals around the UK have all been dropping across the board. Despite promises prior to Brexit that the NHS would receive millions more in funding, any intentions to actually follow through with these promises have so far not been put into practice.
Nevertheless, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab was quick to point out the “incredibly strong team spirit” among those that work with the prime minister. He reassured the public that the measures that Boris Johnson had instructed to be implemented are being worked on and would be put into practice “as soon as possible”. He continued to say that: “That’s the way we’ll bring the whole country through the coronavirus challenge.”
The newly elected leader of the Labour party, Sir Keir Starmer, reacted by saying these are “terribly sad news. All the country’s thoughts are with the prime minister and his family during this incredibly difficult time.”
While there is a lot of uncertainty about the current state of the prime minister, judging by the fact that Dominic Raab has been asked to take over the leadership for now shows that contrary to statements made over the previous days, Boris Johnson is no longer able to be in charge of the government.