U.K. Leadership Faces Questions As Prime Minister Boris Johnson Receives Oxygen Support
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Topline: World leaders, including U.S. President Donald Trump, rallied round British Prime Minister Boris Johnson after he was moved into intensive care on Monday night and is now receiving oxygen support for coronavirus symptoms, while questions are being raised about the country’s succession plans.
- “I want to express our nation’s well wishes to Prime Minister Boris Johnson as he wages his own personal fight with the virus. All Americans are praying for him,” Trump said at his daily coronavirus press conference on Monday.
- Macron tweeted shortly after the news broke: “I send all my support to Boris Johnson, to his family and to the British people at this difficult moment. I wish him a speedy recovery at this testing time.”
- Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sanchez, extended solidarity and wishes for a speedy recovery. “These are difficult days for our countries, but from strength and unity we will be able to win this battle. A hug to all the British people,” he tweeted.
- Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, sent his well wishes, tweeting: “My thoughts are with you and your family right now. Hope to see you back at Number 10 soon.”
Key background: Johnson, 55, was admitted to central London’s St. Thomas’ Hospital on Sunday night as a precaution, after suffering persistent symptoms of COVID-19. But he was taken to the ICU after his condition deteriorated. Johnson revealed he had coronavirus and was self-isolating at home on March 27, 2020, but reassured the nation that he would continue to lead the government’s fight against coronavirus. But since being sent to hospital, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has been asked to step in. Cabinet minister Michael Gove told the BBC on Tuesday morning that the PM had received oxygen support, but was not on a ventilator.
What to watch for: The government’s succession plans. The U.K. has no official deputy in place. However, the First Secretary of State, which in this case is Raab, effectively steps in as such if needed. As de facto deputy, Raab will have limited powers compared to Johnson, but will lead daily cabinet meetings (via video) on the nation’s coronavirus response. A decision on the U.K.’s lockdown period is expected in the coming days, and if Johnson is still unwell, the decision to extend the measure could fall into Raab’s hands.
In a sign of confusion at Raab’s temporary role, Tobias Ellwood, a lawmaker in his own party, has asked for “100% clarity” on where responsibility for national security now lies, while Johnson is unable to work. Gove declined to answer whether or not Raab held the “nuclear codes” in a BBC interview on Tuesday, saying he could not discuss national security issues.
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