United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson has tested positive for coronavirus and is self-isolating.
In early February, as the UK took a different approach to much of the rest of Europe in its handling of the crisis, Johnson said he was continuing to shake hands with people – even in a hospital in which he said there were patients being treated for coronavirus infections.
A Downing Street spokesman said Johnson, 55, experienced mild symptoms on Thursday – a day after he attended the prime minister’s weekly question time in the chamber of the House of Commons.
“The prime minister was tested for coronavirus on the personal advice of England’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty,” the spokesman said, in a statement emailed to Al Jazeera.
“The test was carried out in No 10 by NHS staff and the result of the test was positive,” the spokesman added.
“Over the last 24 hours I have developed mild symptoms and tested positive for coronavirus,” Johnson announced on Twitter on Friday.
“I am now self-isolating, but I will continue to lead the government’s response via video conference as we fight this virus.”
“By some distance, Boris Johnson is the most important world leader to have announced he’s contracted the virus,” said Al Jazeera’s Laurence Lee, reporting from London.
“The coronavirus has its epicentre in London – which is the epicentre of the country – and within that it has actually been centred around Westminster. Several people in Whitehall have all said they have got it, and Boris Johnson has obviously been in regular contact with all these people every day. So on one level, you can look at this and say ‘wow, the prime minister has coronavirus, that’s amazing’, but on another, it’s quite expected and not much of a surprise.
“He managed to get through a two-minute video on Twitter without coughing once, which is pretty amazing given an uncontrollable cough is one symptom.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has also announced he has the virus and will be in self-isolation, working from home.
“Fortunately for me, the symptoms so far have been very mild, so I’ve been able to carry on with the work of driving forward the UK response,” he said.