icon bookmark-bicon bookmarkicon cameraicon checkicon chevron downicon chevron lefticon chevron righticon chevron upicon closeicon v-compressicon downloadicon editicon v-expandicon fbicon fileicon filtericon flag ruicon full chevron downicon full chevron lefticon full chevron righticon full chevron upicon gpicon insicon mailicon moveicon-musicicon mutedicon nomutedicon okicon v-pauseicon v-playicon searchicon shareicon sign inicon sign upicon stepbackicon stepforicon swipe downicon tagicon tagsicon tgicon trashicon twicon vkicon yticon wticon fm

Should Boris Johnson have gone to the hospital earlier?

Graham Dockery
Graham Dockery
is an Irish journalist, commentator, and writer at RT. Previously based in Amsterdam, he wrote for DutchNews and a scatter of local and national newspapers.
is an Irish journalist, commentator, and writer at RT. Previously based in Amsterdam, he wrote for DutchNews and a scatter of local and national newspapers.
Should Boris Johnson have gone to the hospital earlier?
When UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson caught coronavirus, he decided to play the leader and stay working as long as possible. Now he’s in intensive care. Was the PM too careless in the face of a killer virus?

Johnson was admitted to hospital for testing on Sunday, ten days after he was diagnosed with the Covid-19 coronavirus. After his condition worsened on Monday, he was taken into intensive care, leaving Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab filling in as deputy.

But did Johnson fall victim to his workhorse image and desire to play the strong leader? 

Also on rt.com UK PM Boris Johnson moved to INTENSIVE CARE suffering from Covid-19

After his initial diagnosis, Johnson continued working from isolation. The Prime Minister addressed the public via video clips recorded on his phone, insisting as recently as Friday that he felt “better,” despite looking visibly ill. When he was taken to hospital two days later, columnist Sarah Vine tweeted “Boris has worked non-stop throughout his illness - and now we see the result.”

Had chatterers on Twitter and in the media not demanded to know “where is Boris?,” the Prime Minister may have felt less obligated to chairdigital cabinets” and address the public from isolation.

The first seven days of infection are critical, and the NHS recommends “rest and sleep” during this period. In choosing to work, Johnson likely sabotaged his chances of recovery.

However, Johnson presented a defiant front from the outset of the pandemic. His government was slower to shut down businesses and gatherings than neighbors in Ireland and mainland Europe. While Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar spoke in March of the need to “cocoon...the most vulnerable, the most precious in our society,” Johnson mulled adopting a ‘herd immunity’ approach to the virus: in his own words, to “take it on the chin, take it all in one go and allow the disease, as it were, to move through the population, without taking as many draconian measures.

Such an approach was soon abandoned, but only after Johnson had made a show of mocking the virus. As ‘social distancing’ entered the global lexicon, he boasted of “shaking hands continuously.” 

I was at a hospital the other night where I think there were actually a few coronavirus patients and I shook hands with everybody, you’ll be pleased to know. I continue to shake hands,” he said after visiting a Covid-19 ward in early March. However, it bears reminding that although Johnson’s cavalier attitude has since been mocked by the press, opinion on social distancing was still split at the time. Two weeks earlier, liberal news site Vox ribbed those abstaining from handshakes for their “paranoid fear about bodies and disease.”

Still, if Johnson had exercised the “abundance of caution” world leaders always talk about, he may not have found himself receiving oxygen in an ICU bed. Unlike Russian President Vladimir Putin - who donned a lurid yellow hazmat suit and gas mask on a hospital visit last month - Johnson’s idea of a PR victory over the deadly pathogen involved demonstrating the most British of traits: the stiff upper lip.

Also on rt.com Putin dons hazmat suit to visit hospital treating coronavirus patients in Moscow (VIDEO)

Hindsight, however, is 20/20. Compared to other British leaders who have contracted the illness and recovered - Prince Charles and Health Secretary Matt Hancock to name but two - Johnson’s case is evidently more severe.

What happens next is anyone’s guess, and the outcome, whatever it is, will be endlessly dissected by the British and world media. In the meantime, Johnson’s illness is a reminder that nobody, no matter their station in life, is safe from an invisible and airborne enemy. 

Think your friends would be interested? Share this story!

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Podcasts