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British PM Boris Johnson hospitalized with COVID-19

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has tested positive for COVID-19, was admitted to the hospital late Sunday. The prime minister has been in isolation at his residence next door to 10 Downing Street. The government says Johnson is running a high temperature and that the hospitalization is precautionary. Special correspondent Ryan Chilcote joins Hari Sreenivasan from London with more.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Good evening and thanks for joining us. I'm Hari Sreenivasan and welcome to this special report from PBS NewsHour Weekend. We have just learned that Boris Johnson, the prime minister of the United Kingdom, has been hospitalized. This is days after he tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. We're joined now by special correspondent for the NewsHour, Ryan Chilcote, joining us from London. What's the latest?

  • Ryan Chilcote:

    Well, we just learned this literally within the last hour and a half, the 10 Downing Street, the prime minister's office, saying that he was admitted to the hospital on his doctor's advice. They say that this is a precautionary measure. He tested positive for the coronavirus on March the 27th. So he's had it now for 10 days. And we do know that as recently as yesterday, he did have some persisting symptoms, including a persisting, persistent high fever. So it's hard not to see this as a very important development.

    That said, 10 Downing Street says that it's just for tests. It's just precautionary, though he will be spending the night in the hospital, and tomorrow the foreign secretary–his name is Dominic Robb–he will be leading the government's meeting because Boris Johnson will be spending the night in the hospital.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    One of, one of the things that people are going to want to know is did he have any underlying health conditions? How public is that information in the U.K.?

  • Ryan Chilcote:

    Yeah, we don't know that he has any major underlying health conditions. You know, he's fifty five years old. He's in reasonable health. But at the same time, you know, he's is probably not the fittest guy in the world. He, he is sort of your everyday guy. Pretty big. Doesn't exercise too, too much. So there will be concern about his ability to pull through this. As you know, ten days into the virus after getting positive, that is a difficult time for many people. But, you know, up till now, he's been leading the government's business. He's been leading the meetings and he's been regularly communicating with the public, which has shown a huge amount of support for him through Twitter and YouTube.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    From whom, you know, speaking of his support. I mean, after Brexit, his support seemed to have climbed up. But then there was the handling of this specific pandemic that seems to have gone in the opposite direction because he was very reluctant for quite some time to try to have people shelter in place.

  • Ryan Chilcote:

    He was very reluctant. And that's an interesting thing, because the public really has subsequently gotten behind him ever since he decided to institute this or impose this national lockdown. There was, and, and on top of that, after he said that he himself has tested positive, the day after he tested positive, there was a YouGov poll in this country and 52 percent of those polled said that they support the prime minister. Only about 25 percent said they disapprove of the prime minister's work. That's the best rating that any British prime minister has gotten in at least 10 years. So he is enjoying a decent amount of support from the public, because at the end of the day, many Brits feel that it is right that this national lockdown is in place and they feel that he's been handling the crisis, at least up until recently, very well.

    Now, I say until recently, because just the last few days, increasingly people are concerned that testing isn't happening quickly enough in this country and that like in the United States, you keep hearing that doctors, nurses, people that work in the hospitals don't have the protective gear that they need. And people are starting to blame the government for that.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Put the pandemic in perspective for us in Europe. We've heard a lot about Italy, a little bit about Spain, where is the U.K. in all this?

  • Ryan Chilcote:

    So the concern here in the U.K. is that the U.K. will look perhaps in just a matter of days like Italy did during its worst days. In fact, just over the last 24 hours, more people succumbed to the virus here in the U.K. than in Italy. 621 Brits died over the last 24 hours. Now, the epicenter in Europe right now, the place with the most cases with the highest death rate, that's Spain. But the feeling is that the U.K. could overtake Spain perhaps as early as next week.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    And do we know anything about the people that are close to Boris Johnson who interact with him daily? Anybody else have any symptoms?

  • Ryan Chilcote:

    Yes, many of them do in fact. The chief medical officer, the health secretary. There are actually quite a few officials in government who tested positive for the virus. That said, none of them have needed hospitalization yet.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    The Queen doesn't do this very often, but there was a national speech today. What was in it?

  • Ryan Chilcote:

    Yeah, that's right. Well, the queen basically called on Brits to show their reserve just to show their solidarity and perseverance and get through this. You know, the queen is 93. In about two weeks, she's going to turn 94. She's the oldest serving monarch in the world–longest serving monarch in the world. And it's quite extraordinary that she made this address in the first place. You know, Prince Charles tested positive for the coronavirus. He actually went to Scotland and self-isolated there for a couple of weeks. But this was only the fifth time in her reign that the Queen has addressed the public. And, you know, it's just sort of a form of outreach to say, we're with you, and I think it's important that the nation stay together at this time.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    All right. Special correspondent Ryan Chilcote joining us from London tonight. Thanks so much.

  • Ryan Chilcote:

    Thank you.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    And thanks for watching. I'm Hari Sreenivasan. This is PBS NewsHour Weekend.

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