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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was moved into an intensive care unit on Monday and deputized the foreign secretary to take over leadership of the government “where necessary.”
The 55-year-old politician was moved to a London hospital Sunday evening “after being admitted with persistent symptoms of coronavirus,” according to a statement from the government. “Over the course of [Monday] afternoon, the condition of the prime minister has worsened and, on the advice of his medical team, he has been moved to the intensive care unit at the hospital.” The decision was “a precaution should he require ventilation to aid his recovery,” according to a statement.
Johnson announced on March 27 that he had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, making him the first major world leader with a confirmed case. Early in the crisis, Johnson had downplayed the urgency of certain measures. As much of Europe put strict social distancing measures in place, Johnson urged nonvulnerable people to continue with their normal lives in the hopes of developing “herd immunity.” He changed his tune in mid-March after some alarming statistics indicated the country was on a path to overwhelm its National Health Service. He then issued a lockdown.
Earlier in the day Monday, British officials assured the public that Johnson was still healthy enough to remain “in charge” of the government despite his hospitalization.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab will now serve in Johnson’s place where needed. There is no formal plan of succession in the U.K., as there is in the U.S., and it’s not clear which of Johnson’s duties Raab will now handle. Raab will run meetings that Johnson cannot, but some are calling for Raab to step in more formally, according to Reuters.
Johnson, an ally of President Donald Trump, has been a reliably conservative leader, and Raab would be even more so. Raab has supported cutting corporate tax rates and privatizing some state-run schools, according to Slate’s Joshua Keating. He has also stirred up controversy by describing “the typical user of a food bank” as “not someone that’s languishing in poverty” but “someone who has a cash flow problem.”