Boris Johnson Tests Positive for COVID-19

Peter Russell

March 27, 2020

The Prime Minister Boris Johnson has tested positive for COVID-19, Number 10 announced.

It came as Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care said he had also contracted the virus.

Later, the Government's Chief Medical Adviser, Prof Chris Whitty, said he was self-isolating.

The Prime Minister experienced "mild symptoms" yesterday and was personally advised by Prof Whitty to be tested.

The test was carried out in No 10 by NHS staff and the result of the test was positive.

Mr Johnson is self-isolating in his flat above 11 Downing Street, in accordance with guidance.

Boris Johnson Credit: Twitter

Mild Symptoms

In a video message he said: "I want to bring you up to speed on something that's happening today, which is that I've developed mild symptoms of the coronavirus. That's to say, a temperature and a persistent cough.

"And, on the advice of the Chief Medical Officer, I've taken a test. That has come out positive.

"So I am working from home. I'm self-isolating. And that’s entirely the right thing to do.

"But be in no doubt that I can continue, thanks to the wizardry of modern technology, to communicate with all my top team to lead the national fightback against coronavirus."
 

https://twitter.com/BorisJohnson/status/1243496858095411200

Later, Matt Hancock announced he had also tested positive for COVID-19.  

He tweeted: "Following medical advice, I was advised to test for coronavirus. I've tested positive. Thankfully my symptoms are mild and I'm working from home and self-isolating."

'Virus Does Not Respect Authority or Position'

Commenting on the Prime Minister's diagnosis via the Science Media Centre, Jonathan Ball, professor of molecular virology, University of Nottingham, said: "A virus does not respect authority or position. From lowly virologists to powerful Prime Ministers, all of us are susceptible to infection. This news highlights just how easy it is for this virus to pass under the radar and spread through our communities.

"Thankfully the Prime Minister is said to be suffering from mild symptoms, and it is exactly these mild symptoms that have enabled this virus to spread so widely. But of course, not everyone infected will be so lucky – we  know that this is a virus that makes people seriously ill and even die. It is putting our hospitals under immense pressure and it is key for us to do what we can to slow its spread."

Dr Michael Head, senior research fellow in global health at the University of Southampton, added: "It is public knowledge that the Prime Minister's partner is pregnant, and so a confirmed COVID-19 infection does give some concern around the health of mother and baby.

"It is reassuring that so far there have been few noted complications during pregnancy of infection with COVID-19. However, this is an emerging evidence base, so the health services will be cautious with the welfare of all expectant mothers and any associated risks."

Access to Testing

The Doctors' Association UK questioned why Mr Johnson had been able to access a test while health professionals were not routinely able to do so. Dr Samantha Batt-Rawden, who leads the group, said: "We are sorry to hear that both Mr Johnson and Mr Hancock have tested positive for COVID-19 and we wish them both a speedy recovery. The NHS will always be here for them should they need us. 

"We recognise the importance of key workers being tested for COVID-19, and both the Prime Minister and the Health Secretary are clearly needed at this time. Healthcare workers will be hoping that this signals an expansion of testing to them as well.

"Most frontline NHS staff who are symptomatic, or have a household member who is unwell, are still being denied tests and asked to self-isolate for 7-14 days. This is taking dedicated NHS staff away from the frontline at a time they are needed most. Frontline testing must now be rolled out to NHS staff as a priority."

At the daily Downing Street briefing, Dr Jenny Harries, deputy chief medical officer for England was asked to explain the rationale behind the PM's test. "Firstly, that you must have clinical symptoms. The default position without that is, you would not be tested, and then the only other criteria would be the centrality of your role to the COVID-19 response. And in this particular case, I'm sure your viewers will understand that the Prime Minister plays a very critical role in that. And that's the basis for our testing."

Professor Susan Michie, director of the UCL Centre for Behaviour Change, University College London, said: "Whilst the PM was telling people to stay at home and keep at least 2 metres apart from each other, the House of Commons was open for business and face-to-face parliamentary activities were carrying on.  Given the transmission routes of touching contaminated surfaces and breathing in virus-laden droplets, it should not come as a surprise to hear that the PM and Health Secretary have tested positive for coronavirus.  
 
"There are many reasons why those in leadership positions, including in Government, should practice what they preach.  The first is that such people are important role models, with the ability to enhance or undermine their verbal messages by their actions. The second concerns trust. If leaders do not adhere to their own recommendations, this undermines trust in them which in turn can undermine the population’s adherence to their advice."

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