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Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (UK), has tested positive for COVID-19.
He says he is experiencing mild symptoms and will be quarantining himself in an apartment connected to 10 Downing Street, the official residence of the Prime Minister.
According to Johnson, he will continue to lead the country’s coronavirus response via video conference.
The Prime Minister is not the only UK leader who has tested positive. Shortly after Johnson’s announcement, Matt Hancock, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, also said he had the virus.
As of Friday, there are 14,543 confirmed cases in the UK and 759 people have died. This week saw the biggest jump in deaths in the UK since the crisis started, with 151 people dying in a 24 hour period from Wednesday to Thursday.
As the coronavirus spread across the western hemisphere, many countries started imposing lockdowns and social distancing measures, especially the hardest hit locations, like Italy.
Initially, however, the UK was reluctant to put restrictions in place, instead suggesting that the virus could be contained with limited changes to daily life, using the logic that citizens would eventually become exposed to the virus and build up immunity, thereby limiting the public health threat in the long term. This tactic is called “herd immunity.”
However, the country changed course earlier this week after Johnson imposed a lockdown in the UK, urging all citizens to stay home and shutting down all non-essential shops and public events, in line with the policies of other nations.
According to modeling predictions from Imperial College London and other respected sources, the herd immunity strategy would likely have overwhelmed UK hospitals and led to thousands of preventable deaths.
Over the past several weeks Johnson has received criticism for continuing to shake people’s hands as official government warnings emerged that citizens should stay at least two meters (six feet) apart from one another.
“I’m shaking hands,” Johnson said earlier this month when asked how he might greet the leaders of other nations during the crisis.
“I was at a hospital the other night where I think a few there were actually coronavirus patients and I shook hands with everybody, you’ll be pleased to know, and I continue to shake hands.” Johnson continued.
Johnson is the first major world leader to catch the virus.
“But be in no doubt that I can continue [leading the country], thanks to the wizardry of modern technology, to communicate with all my top team to lead the national fightback against coronavirus,” he said during a video message in self quarantine.
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