Boris Johnson, Great Britain’s own version of Donald Trump, has become the first major world leader to become seriously stricken by the coronavirus — and it’s a test of how the world views the controversial prime minister.
The 55-year-old Johnson, leader of the Conservative Party and a strong supporter of Brexit, was taken into intensive care on Monday, days after the government downplayed his illness. Johnson was diagnosed nearly two weeks ago and was admitted to the hospital Sunday for what was described as routine tests.
But his condition suddenly worsened, prompting doctors to transfer him to the ICU. He is conscious and not on a ventilator, according to a statement from 10 Downing St.
“When you’re in intensive care, it’s a big deal,” President Trump said on Monday of his friend. “It’s a scary deal.”
Trump, in his regular press briefing on Monday, took time to wish Johnson well and said the nation was praying for him.
“We’re very saddened to hear he was taken into intensive care,” Trump said. “He’s been a really good friend, he’s been really something very special. Strong, resolute. Doesn’t quit. Doesn’t give up.”
Trump said Johnson had given approval to doctors treating him to try new medical treatments to help him.
Johnson’s pregnant fiancee is also sick, likely from the coronavirus, according to reports.
Hours before he was transferred to the ICU, Johnson took to Twitter to say he was in good spirits and thanked the National Health Service for taking care of him and others with the disease.
“On the advice of my doctor, I went into hospital for some routine tests as I’m still experiencing coronavirus symptoms,” Johnson said in the tweet. He said he was keeping in touch with his team “as we work together to fight this virus and keep everyone safe.”
Johnson’s wild, unkempt hair, his weight and his conservative positions have drawn repeated comparisons to Trump.
And there are plenty of parallels to Trump in how Johnson has reacted to the deadly new virus.
Like Trump, Johnson was also criticized for being too slow to react to the pandemic and failing to enact stricter measures earlier. In one poll, just 36% of British people trusted Johnson to handle the coronavirus crisis.
Reaction to Johnson’s sudden turn for the worse prompted immediate reaction from his supporters and his political rivals, who all wished for his speedy recovery.
Johnson’s illness has plunged Britain into a state of uncertainty.
Unlike the United States, where there is a clear plan of succession, there is no formal process in Britain to determine who is next in power.
There’s no “vice prime minister” in the UK.
Johnson has reportedly handed over his duties to his foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, who is described as a “divisive” right wing figure.
Sounds like a good plan.
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