‘It could have gone either way’: What British leader Boris Johnson’s COVID-19 battle may tell us about Trump’s
“It could have gone either way,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a video message posted on April 12 as he reflected on his personal battle with COVID-19.
It was 16 days after Johnson tested positive for COVID-19 and three days after he spent 72 hours in an intensive-care unit in central London, which he credited with saving his life.
Over the last few years, there have been many comparisons – some apt, others a stretch – made between Britain’s leader and President Donald Trump: the political polarization, the scare-mongering over immigration, their distinctive hairstyles. Now, there’s a new one: Johnson may be one of the few world leaders who understands what Trump may be facing in the days and weeks ahead following his positive coronavirus diagnosis.
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Trump is currently receiving treatment at the Walter Reed National Military Hospital just outside Washington, D.C., where the White House said he will spend the next few days. His doctors were “cautiously optimistic” about the president’s condition Saturday but did not give a timetable for his discharge from the hospital.
First Lady Melania Trump and at least 10 other people who were in close proximity with the Trumps have also tested positive for the new coronavirus.
Boris Johnson’s COVID-19 blueprint
When Johnson tested positive for coronavirus in late March, he became the first world leader to publicly acknowledge his illness. His descent into the clutches of a disease, which he later said he believed he had only a “50-50” chance of surviving, started slowly.
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Initially, Johnson vowed it would be “business as usual” because he, like Trump, had only “mild symptoms” – a slight fever. He said he would continue to work in isolation from his official office and residence at No. 10 Downing Street in London and keep in constant touch with his Cabinet and lawmakers. He would do this through, he said, the “wizardry of modern technology,” referring to applications such as Zoom and WhatsApp.
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It got off to a rocky start.
Within a few hours of his diagnosis, Johnson’s health secretary contracted the virus.
Still, Johnson remained upbeat.
“Although I am sequestered … I am absolutely confident we will beat it together,” he said in a video message published on his social media accounts on April 1.
At that point, he had been COVID-positive for four days.
A few days later, things still seemed to be going to plan.
Johnson appeared on the doorstep of Downing Street to “Clap for Carers” – applaud hospital staff and other emergency workers battling the epidemic on the frontlines.
But he looked unwell, even though aides insisted he would soon be on the mend, and it wouldn’t be long before he could come out of isolation and get back to work full-tilt.
Then, a change.
On April 5, Downing Street released a very brief statement saying that Johnson had been admitted to the hospital for tests purely “as a precautionary step” because his symptoms were persisting almost 10 days after he tested positive.
It was then announced that Dominic Raab, Johnson’s foreign secretary, take over the running of the government if Johnson was incapacitated. But the prime minister, his aides insisted, was receiving “excellent care” and there was genuinely nothing to worry about.
Two days later, Johnson was in intensive care.
He was not put on a ventilator but later confirmed in media interviews that he received what he characterized as “liters and liters” of oxygen. A succession plan was drawn up and there were also discussions about how to announce it.
Johnson admitted that he feared being near death.
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Queen Elizabeth II was briefed on the situation.
Meanwhile, during the three nights that Johnson spent in the intensive care unit at London’s St. Thomas Hospital, the public was told only that he was there for “close monitoring,” that his condition remained stable and he was in “good spirits.”
Higher risk for severe illness
In the 18-second video that Trump posted on Twitter on Friday, immediately before traveling to Walter Reed, he said: “I think I’m doing very well. But we’re going to make sure that things work out. The first lady is doing very well. So thank you very much.”
Five hours later, another tweet: “Going welI, I think! Thank you to all. LOVE!!!”
Shortly before midnight, Sean Conley, the president’s physician, gave an update, saying in a memo that Trump was “doing very well” and has not required any supplemental oxygen, but that doctors have started treating him with the antiviral drug remdesivir. Remdesivir been shown to shorten recovery time for some coronavirus patients.
On Saturday, Conley said the president is doing “very well.”
He is not on oxygen or having trouble breathing.
Conley said Trump is fever-free.
However, the president’s vitals over the past day were “very concerning” and the next 48 hours will be critical for his care, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told the Associated Press on Saturday.
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Since the coronavirus outbreak began, doctors and scientists have stressed that those who test positive for the virus have responded in different ways.
Johnson’s doctors have not formally released information about which drugs he was treated with, but in March remdesivir was not being widely used.
Johnson, like Trump, is categorized as obese. At 74, Trump is 18 years older than Johnson. Both men are considered to be at high-risk from the disease.
Britain’s leader left the hospital on April 9 and then spent two weeks recovering at Chequers, the prime minister’s country retreat, before returning to work.
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Johnson did not play down the threat of coronavirus as much as Trump did, but in its earliest stages he resisted calls for a lockdown.
In press statements, Johnson has repeatedly said that he owes his life to extremely dedicated hospital workers and staff.
“They pulled my chestnuts out of the fire, no question,” he said.
Still, several weeks after he started back at work, Johnson often appeared to be short of breath in public appearances. He visibly lost weight. The prime minister said this was partly because he had taken up jogging. He has denied reports in the British press that he is struggling to recover from coronavirus and plans to step down in six months.