|UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s return comes at another critical juncture for the government, which has found itself on the defensive since the Covid-19 crisis began.(Reuters file photo )|
Boris Johnson will return to work on Monday and take charge of the U.K.’s handling of the pandemic, a month after he was struck down by the coronavirus.
The government has been without a leader since the prime minister was admitted to the hospital on April 5.
Since being released he’s been slowly easing his way back, holding daily video calls with Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and his Downing Street team, and speaking to his key medical advisers Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance.
Johnson’s return comes at another critical juncture for the government, which has found itself on the defensive since the Covid-19 crisis began. The country’s death toll, from hospitals only, has topped 20,000, the fifth highest in the world, and business has slowed to a crawl.
Britain, as the rest of Europe, has seen its economy paralysed by the Covid-19 outbreak. However, the government and Mr Johnson have faced questions over the unpreparedness of the National Health Service and a laissez-fair attitude at the outset of the pandemic.
During his less than three weeks of recovery, Mr Johnson’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has taken the reigns of the response as stand-in. With a lack of a clear roadmap for exiting the current lockdown, though, the government has been accused of being rudderless in the prime minister’s absence.
While recovering in his country residence at Chequers, Mr Johnson has reportedly been eased back into the business of government, holding daily video calls with Mr Raab and his Downing Street team and speaking to his key medical advisers Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance.
The prime minister had said he would be particularly cautious about whether lifting social-distancing measures would risk a second wave of the virus at a time daily cases have leveled off and deaths have started to decline.
Coronavirus deaths in the UK pass 20,000
Ministers have warned it is still too soon to start lifting the lockdown as the number of people in the UK who have died in hospital after testing positive for coronvirus passed 20,000.
At the daily No 10 press conference, Home Secretary Priti Patel said the entire nation was grieving as it marked another “tragic and terrible milestone” in the outbreak.
It came less than six weeks after the Government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said it would be a “good outcome” if the number of deaths in the UK could be held below 20,000.
One expert suggested the numbers could now double that tally before the outbreak was brought under control in Britain.According to the latest official figures, a total of 20,319 patients had died in hospital after testing positive for Covid-19 in the UK as of 5pm on Friday – up by 813 from the previous day.
It meant the UK has become the fifth country to pass 20,000 coronavirus deaths, behind the US, Italy, Spain and France.
That figure does not include deaths in the wider community, such as in care homes, which means the true toll will be higher by several thousand at least.
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