U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has tested positive for the coronavirus, he announced Friday, just weeks after cavalierly declaring that he was still “shaking hands with everybody” and downplaying warnings about the deadly virus coming from public health officials and scientists.
“I am now self-isolating, but I will continue to lead the government’s response via video-conference as we fight this virus,” said Johnson.
Over the last 24 hours I have developed mild symptoms and tested positive for coronavirus.
I am now self-isolating, but I will continue to lead the government’s response via video-conference as we fight this virus.
— Boris Johnson #StayHomeSaveLives (@BorisJohnson) March 27, 2020
Johnson, 55, is the first major world leader and the second high-ranking British official after Prince Charles to test positive for the disease. The Daily Beast reported Friday that it was not yet known if Johnson had been in contact with the prince or Queen Elizabeth.
Just weeks ago, Johnson told reporters at a press briefing that he was continuing to shake hands with everyone he meets, including during a recent visit to a hospital where some patients were known to have the virus.
Critics of Johnson noted the prime minister’s previous dismissal of the need for social distancing.
“Boris Johnson has it,” tweeted Intercept journalist Mehdi Hasan. “A few weeks ago he was boasting about shaking the hands of coronavirus victims in a U.K. hospital.”
According to Bloomberg, Johnson’s announcement Friday of his infection added to economic instability in European markets and continuing mistrust of U.K. efforts to handle the disease:
The disclosure adds to the uncertainty over the British government’s response to the coronavirus, which had already been criticized for being too slow. The pound erased its gains against the dollar after Johnson’s announcement, while European stocks extended their losses.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock on Friday also announced he had contracted the disease, adding to confusion and instability around the government’s response.
The prime minister’s infection proves that the disease does not discriminate, said outgoing Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn in a tweet wishing Johnson well.
“Coronavirus can and does affect anyone,” Corbyn said. “Everyone be safe. Our own health depends on everybody else.”