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

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Johnson, 55, has been recuperating at the British prime ministerial retreat, Chequers, outside London since his release from hospital on April 12.

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

Johnson, 55, has been recuperating at the British prime ministerial retreat, Chequers, outside London since his release from hospital on April 12.

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

But there have been increasing signs his return to Downing Street could be imminent, after officials said he had spoken to Queen Elizabeth II and also US President Donald Trump.

Trump on Thursday said Johnson was full of “tremendous energy” and sounded “incredible” when they talked on the phone.

The Daily Telegraph, Johnson’s former employer, suggested he could be back at his desk on Monday, and hold briefing meetings with individual cabinet ministers.

But Health Secretary Matt Hancock was more cautious, despite the prime minister’s progress.

“I spoke to him yesterday, he’s cheerful, and he’s ebullient and he’s definitely on the mend in a big way,” he said on Friday.

“When exactly he comes back is a matter for him and his doctors.”

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has been deputising since Johnson was taken to hospital on April 6, chairing cabinet meetings about political strategy to fight the outbreak.

But while nominally in charge, Raab as “first secretary of state” would have required overall cabinet approval to take any major decisions, such as easing lockdown measures.

In reality, Raab, senior minister Michael Gove and Health Minister Matt Hancock have largely shared the leadership burden in Johnson’s absence, which has coincided with the suspected peak in hospital deaths and positive tests.

Britain has been one of the worst-hit countries in the world by the virus, with hundreds of deaths reported every day.

The actual death toll could rise further when deaths in the community are taken into account, particularly from care homes.

Johnson has received support during his illness, which has been seen as a clear demonstration of the indiscriminate nature of the virus.

The main opposition Labour party leader Keir Starmer accused the government of being “slow into lockdown, slow on testing, slow on protective equipment”.

He will also be expected to immediately explain how he plans to get the country’s economy up and running again while controlling the spread of the virus.

WRITER: AFP
Source: Bangkok Post

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