Boris Johnson under pressure to explain the UK virus plan on return to work

 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to return to work soon after his recovery from Covid-19, as pressure on his government increases to explain how to get Britain out of the lockdown.

Boris Johnson, 55, has been recovering from the release of the hospital on April 12 during the British withdrawal of the Prime Minister, Checkers, outside London.

He spent three days in intensive care and later admitted that “it could have gone any way,” forcing him to take it easy before returning to the political battle.

But there are growing signs that his return to Downing Street is imminent after officials said he spoke to Queen Elizabeth II and also to President Donald Trump.

Trump said on Thursday that Johnson was full of “enormous energy” and sounded “incredible” when they made the call.

“I was actually surprised … he was ready to go,” he told reporters.

The Daily Telegraph, Johnson’s former employer, suggested that he could return to his desk on Monday and hold briefing meetings with individual ministers.

But health secretary Matt Hancock was more cautious despite the prime minister’s progress.

“I spoke to him yesterday, he’s excited, he’s exuberant, and he’s definitely on the right track,” he said Friday.

“Exactly when he comes back is up to him and his doctors.”

Growing criticism

Secretary of State Dominic Raab has been replacing since Johnson was brought to hospital on April 6 and chaired cabinet meetings on the political strategy to combat the outbreak.

But while nominally in charge, Raab as “first secretary of state” would have needed the general approval of the cabinet to make important decisions, such as easing closure measures.

In reality, Raab, Prime Minister Michael Gove, and Health Secretary Matt Hancock largely shared leadership tax during Johnson’s absence, which coincided with the suspected spike in hospital deaths and positive tests.

Britain is one of the most affected countries in the world by the virus, with hundreds killed each day.

The actual death toll could increase even further if community deaths, especially from nursing homes, are taken into account.

While Johnson was away, top ministers faced collective criticism of personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages and a lack of widespread testing, particularly of primary health care and social workers.

“The government has not been as agile as it should be,” Chaand Nagpaul, chairman of the board of the British Medical Association (BMA) told Sky News television.

“This is extremely emotionally stressful and it is taking its toll on healthcare.”

Johnson received support during his illness, which was seen as a clear demonstration of the random nature of the virus.

But sympathy could diminish as he once again becomes the focus of the government if problems remain about gaps in the supply of personal protective equipment and the lack of testing.

His actions in the early days of the outbreak came under harsh criticism last week after he postponed the introduction of strict measures from European neighbors.

The Labor Party’s chief opposition leader, Keir Starmer, accused the government of being “slow in lockdown, slow in testing, slow in protective equipment.”

He is also expected to immediately explain how he intends to get the country’s economy going again and control the spread of the virus.

Deep recession

There is an increasing demand for an exit strategy from the current national lockdown, which was first imposed on March 23, extended on April 16 and should be reviewed on May 7.

Ministers have so far publicly declined to speculate on when the restrictions will be lifted, saying that experts were unsure whether Britain exceeded the peak of the outbreak.

However, greater clarity has been called for, including from within Johnson’s ruling conservative party, as the economic consequences of the outbreak intensify.

Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith said the government should “bite the bullet and do it” as some companies began to reopen despite the ban.

The Bank of England warned Thursday that the country is facing the worst recession in “a few centuries”.

Scotland’s Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon also raised the bar by revealing her broader strategy, including the possible phased reopening of some businesses and schools.

Northern Ireland’s prime minister Arlene Foster has also suggested she could lift restrictions on England.

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