British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who survived intensive care after contracting Covid-19 earlier this year, insisted on Monday he is in “good health” despite being forced into self-isolation after one of his MPs tested positive.
“It doesn’t matter that I’m fit as a butcher’s dog, feel great… that I’ve had the disease and I’m bursting with antibodies,” he said in a Twitter video.
“We’ve got to interrupt the spread of the disease and one of the ways we can do that now is by self-isolating for 14 days,” he added, saying he would lead the virus response from his Downing Street home.
Johnson spent three days in intensive care with coronavirus in April, admitting afterwards that his life hung in the balance and it “could have gone either way”.
This time round, he said he was not suffering any symptoms and health minister Matt Hancock on Monday described his boss as “full of beans”.
Johnson was told by England’s test and trace scheme to self-isolate after Conservative MP Lee Anderson, who Johnson met on Thursday with five other lawmakers, tested positive.
The prime minister was out of action for nearly a month when he caught the virus during the first wave of infections from March.
But the Conservative Party leader said he would have “plenty more to say by Zoom and other means of electronic communication” during this spell in isolation.
The British leader has said his coronavirus case was seriously worsened by being overweight, but that he had since lost 26 pounds (12 kilos).
“I am going to continue that diet, because you’ve got to search for the hero inside of yourself, in the hope that that individual is considerably slimmer,” he joked last month.
– Vaccine plea –
Britain has been the worst-hit nation in Europe recording more than 50,000 coronavirus deaths from some 1.2 million positive cases.
But Johnson said the country now had two “gigantic boxing gloves with which to wallop” the virus in the shape of mass rapid-turnaround testing and a potential vaccine that he said could be available for the most vulnerable citizens before Christmas.
The government announced on Monday that daily testing capacity is set to more than double early next year with the opening of two new “megalabs” processing up to 600,000 samples a day.
Health minister Hancock on Monday criticised groups that were opposed to taking the new vaccine, telling Times Radio that it was “entirely inappropriate”.
“We don’t propose, and allow vaccines in this country, unless they pass some of the most stringent safety requirements in the world,” he said.
“Getting a vaccine — whether it’s for flu or hopefully for coronavirus — is something that not only protects you but protects the people around you.
“So it’s a really important step,” he added.
News of Johnson’s self-isolation capped a tumultuous week which saw his controversial chief aide Dominic Cummings leave his post.
Cummings’ departure came as part of an expected reset of the prime minister’s faltering government, that could now be complicated by his two-week confinement.
Downing Street at the weekend took the unusual step of announcing detailed plans of Johnson’s activities for the next few weeks, including crunch Brexit trade talks with the EU.
However, Johnson addressed all his Downing Street staff via Zoom, and reiterated his commitment to “two absolute Government priorities”, according to his spokesman.
They include the ongoing response to the pandemic, and the so-called “levelling up agenda” to reduce Britain’s stark regional inequalities.
“He said this is a government that is determined to change this country for the better and deliver opportunity for everyone in all parts of the UK,” his spokesman told reporters.
Johnson is expected to deliver a keynote speech later this week on a “green” economic recovery from the pandemic, which will set out how the government plans to create “thousands of jobs”, he added.