UK PM Boris Johnson is in ‘good spirits’ as he works in the hospital despite coronavirus

A file photo dated on March 18, 2020 shows British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaving Number 10 at Downing Street, London.

Ray Tang | Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Monday he’s “in good spirits” and is leading the government’s efforts to tackle the coronavirus epidemic despite being hospitalized.

Dominic Raab, the U.K.’s first secretary of state, said the prime minister had a “comfortable night” in hospital.

“This was a precautionary step because he continues to have persistent coronavirus symptoms 10 days after first having tested positive for the virus,” Raab told reporters at the government’s daily press conference Monday. Under British law, Raab would assume responsibilities of running the government if the prime minister becomes unable to.

Earlier Monday, Johnson said he went to hospital on Sunday for “routine tests” because he was still experiencing coronavirus symptoms 10 days after contracting COVID-19.

“I’m in good spirits and keeping in touch with my team, as we work together to fight this virus and keep everyone safe,” he tweeted.

The prime minister had been in self-isolation at his flat next door to 10 Downing Street, before being admitted to St Thomas’ Hospital in London.

In a second tweet, Johnson thanked the National Health Service and urged Brits to stay at home. The U.K. has been on lockdown for over two weeks.

“I’d like to say thank you to all the brilliant NHS staff taking care of me and others in this difficult time. You are the best of Britain,” the prime minister added.

“Stay safe everyone, and please remember to stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives.”

Speaking later Monday, Raab, who is also the U.K.’s foreign secretary, added: “I can reassure the British people that the government remains united in a single overriding priority which is to defeat the coronavirus and see this nation through the challenge ahead.”

The description of the prime minister’s symptoms as “persistent” on Sunday was a marked change from “mild,” which had been used to described his symptoms until then. 

Raab insisted that Johnson would continue to lead the government from hospital, despite his illness. Raab is effectively Johnson’s de facto deputy, and is expected to step in as caretaker leader if Johnson is unable to work.

“He’ll continue to take doctors’ advice on what to do next,” he said. “We have a team which … is in full throttle making sure his directions and his instructions are being implemented and followed through.”

In the U.K., 48,451 people have been infected, while 4,943 who tested positive for the virus have died, according to Johns Hopkins University. Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, is among those who have contracted the illness.

A total of 5,373 Brits have died in hospital after testing positive for the coronavirus, the U.K.’s Department of Health and Science said Monday, up 439 from the previous day.

It said that, out of the 208,837 people tested, 51,608 have tested positive for the virus.

Queen Elizabeth II, Charles’ mother, addressed the nation in a rare television speech on Sunday, calling the COVID-19 pandemic a “different” kind of challenge.

“This time we join with all nations across the globe in a common endeavor, using the great advances of science and our instinctive compassion to heal. We will succeed — and that success will belong to every one of us.”

“We will meet again,” she added, in reference to the British song made famous by Vera Lynn during World War II.

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