British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has tested positive for the coronavirus and is self-isolating at his Downing Street residence but said he would still lead the government’s response to the accelerating outbreak.
Johnson, 55, experienced mild symptoms on Thursday, a day after he answered questions at a weekly question-and-answer session in parliament’s House of Commons chamber. He received the positive test result at around midnight.
“I’ve taken a test. That has come out positive,” Johnson said on Friday in a video statement broadcast on Twitter. “I’ve developed mild symptoms of the coronavirus. That’s to say – a temperature and a persistent cough.”
“Be in no doubt that I can continue, thanks to the wizardry of modern technology, to communicate with all my top team to lead the national fightback against coronavirus,” he said.
Health minister Matt Hancock, another senior member of the British government’s response, said he had also tested positive and was self-isolating at home with mild symptoms. The government’s top medical adviser also said he had symptoms.
Johnson is the first leader of a major power to announce a positive test result for coronavirus. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau went into isolation this month after his wife tested positive for the virus.
U.S. President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have both been tested, so far with negative results.
Trump spoke with Johnson to wish him a speedy recovery and thank him for his close friendship, White House spokesman Judd Deere said.
Johnson chaired a government meeting on the coronavirus on Friday morning via teleconference.
His designated deputy is foreign minister Dominic Raab. Britain does not have a publicised contingency plan in case senior ministers were incapacitated.
Britain has recorded more than 14,500 coronavirus cases and the death toll had risen to 759 as of Thursday afternoon, up by nearly a third in 24 hours. It is the seventh highest official death toll after Italy, Spain, China, Iran, the United States and France.