With PM Johnson ill, coronavirus strikes at heart of British politics

LONDON (Reuters) – Hours after Prime Minister Boris Johnson revealed on Friday he had the coronavirus, his health minister said he did too, and England’s chief medical officer announced he also had symptoms.

FILE PHOTO: Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson applauds outside 10 Downing Street during the Clap For Our Carers campaign in support of the NHS, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, London, Britain, March 26, 2020. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

It isn’t a huge surprise.

There can be no way to know if they infected each other or caught the illness from another person, or different people. But the three men had met a handful of times in person over the previous 10 days, according to Johnson’s official diary, to formulate Britain’s response to the outbreak.

On Tuesday of last week, when most ministers video-conferenced into a cabinet meeting, Health Secretary Matt Hancock and chief medical officer Chris Whitty sat in the room with Johnson.

Whitty had also stood alongside the prime minister at three of the 11 news conferences on the coronavirus since March 16.

Now the question on the lips of many at Downing Street and beyond is: how many other people did the UK prime minister come into contact with before testing positive?

Asked about whether those who became ill believed they had done so from meeting Johnson, a government source noted that scientists say it takes around five days from transmission to developing symptoms so people who became ill at the same time “almost certainly” did not give it to one another.

Johnson is the first world leader to announce he is sick with COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

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