LONDON, April 6, 2020 (BSS/AFP) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was
taken to hospital after failing to shake off coronavirus symptoms, as Queen
Elizabeth II said a united effort would defeat the outbreak.
The government announced within an hour of the monarch’s rare special
address Sunday to the country and Commonwealth nations that Johnson had been
admitted for further tests as a precaution.
Johnson, 55, had been due to re-emerge from seven days of self-isolation on
Friday, a week after announcing he had tested positive for COVID-19 and had
But he said in a video message on Friday that he would continue to stay at
home because of a persistent high temperature.
Downing Street called it a “precautionary step” and it is understood his
admission was not an emergency and he was taken to hospital on medical
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is designated to take over if the prime
minister is unable to perform his duties but government sources said Johnson
was still in charge.
Johnson is the most high-profile world leader to contract the virus. His
pregnant partner, Carrie Symonds, is also recovering from symptoms but has
not been tested.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock returned to work on Friday after a week at
home following his positive test for COVID-19. The chief medical officer,
Chris Whitty, has also displayed symptoms.
Hancock on Sunday described Johnson’s condition as “OK” and said he had
been in “good spirits”.
“He’s very much got his hand on the tiller,” he told Sky News television
but said Johnson was being careful to follow government advice on self-
Medical experts said doctors would likely be assessing Johnson’s lung and
“Doctors will be monitoring important vital signs such as oxygen
saturations,” said Rupert Beale, a group leader at the 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.”
US President Donald Trump said he was “hopeful and sure” Johnson would
recover, calling the prime minister “a friend of mine” and a “great leader”.
– ‘We’ll meet again’ –
The Downing Street announcement came as the 93-year-old queen offered a
message of hope to everyone affected by the global pandemic, which has seen
more than 1.2 million cases and more than 68,000 deaths.
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.
In only her fourth address at a time of crisis in her 68-year reign, the
queen said the outbreak could be defeated by a collective effort in a “common
“We will succeed — and that success will belong to every one of us,” she
said in a speech recorded at Windsor Castle, west of London, where she moved
as a precaution on March 19.
Thanking healthcare staff and keyworkers, and praising the community
response to the outbreak, the queen said people in Britain and around the
world could feel proud.
“Together we are tackling this disease, and I want to reassure you that if
we remain united and resolute, then we will overcome it,” she added.
She drew on her experience of World War II, when she and her sister
princess Margaret were evacuated to Windsor as London was bombed, drawing
parallels with people forced apart by the virus.
In particular, she referenced British wartime singer Vera Lynn, whose song
“We’ll Meet Again” became an anthem for service personnel fighting abroad,
far from their loved ones.
“We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better
days will return: we will be with our friends again; we will be with our
families again; we will meet again.”
– Tougher measures –
Johnson was criticised for his initial light-touch approach to the outbreak
but on March 23 ordered a three-week lockdown after scientists warned the
stance risked huge numbers of deaths.
People have been told only to leave their homes to shop for essential items
and medicine, and to exercise.
But Hancock on Sunday warned that outside exercise could be banned after
concern warmer weather could tempt people from their homes to public parks
and open spaces.
A major south London park was closed on Sunday after high numbers of
sunbathers on Saturday.
Hancock later said changes to social distancing were “not imminent” but in
a sign of the seriousness of the measures, Scotland’s chief medical officer
resigned for breaking the rules after twice visiting her second home despite
fronting an ad campaign calling for Scots to stay at home.
She apologised and Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon backed her to
stay on. But on Sunday night Calderwood said she had quit as her behaviour
risked “becoming a distraction”.