Shock in UK

REPORTS of United Kingdom (UK) Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s admission to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of St Thomas’ Hospital in London yesterday sent shock waves throughout the Jamaican community in that country, where more than 5,300 people have succumbed to COVID-19.

Johnson, who tested positive for the infectious disease less than two weeks ago, had been self-isolating at his Downing Street residence before being admitted to hospital on Sunday.

Yesterday, news emerged from his office that his condition had worsened, shocking the country.

Weeks before testing positive, Johnson had announced that he “shook hands with everybody”, including patients at hospital, leaving many to theorise that that’s how the leader of the British Conservative Party contracted the deadly disease.

Yesterday, Jamaican Damain Drummond, who lives and works in London, told the Jamaica Observer that while he was not surprised that Johnson, 55, had contracted the virus, he was stunned when news broke across the country that the prime minister was moved to the ICU.

“In my mind, I knew that it was a high probability for him to be infected. To be honest, it came as a shock to me because when I saw the breaking news this (yesterday) evening, I was shocked and I hope that he has a speedy recovery,” Drummond said, adding that for most people in London, what happens next “is just a wait-and-see game”.

There are more than 52,000 confirmed cases of the virus in the UK with 287 recoveries, according to statistics from Johns Hopkins University.

Drummond said, looking on at how the Jamaican Government has handled the outbreak, had the UK taken a similar approach, he believes things would have been much different in that country.

“I take heart from what I see Jamaica is doing, in terms of the measures that they are putting in place. I think that if such measures were actually in place, even before then, at least it would have limited what is actually happening now in terms of the rates of infection and deaths in the United Kingdom,” he stated.

For Rohan Francis, a Jamaican living in Birmingham, thinking about COVID-19 increases his stress levels.

He is asthmatic and learning about Johnson’s worsening condition has stunned him.

“It’s a shocker, really,” Francis said.

“He has actually done his best to try [to] keep all of us safe, and to see him put himself at the forefront of everything and now he’s in intensive care, my thoughts go out to him and his family and his [spouse], because she is pregnant. That’s a bit of a concern because that is a major event that has taken place,” he added.

Another Jamaican living in London, who asked not to be named, said it was difficult to learn that Johnson had been moved to the ICU.

“You never want to hear that anybody catch this thing, and to hear that he is in the intensive care [unit] is sad. Is tonight I’m hearing that. This morning (yesterday) when I hear the news, they said he’s going to the hospital to get more check-ups and now I’m hearing that he’s in intensive care, so it’s very sad. You don’t want that to happen to nobody, and with so much people dying and stuff, it is crazy,” the man said.

Last month, Johnson drew heavy criticism for his handling of the pandemic, with many irate over what appeared to be his “brushing off” of medical precautions in regard to social distancing.

Yesterday, First Secretary of State Dominic Raab, who was asked by Johnson to assume leadership during his time away from office, told the BBC that the country’s business would continue.

“The Government’s business will continue… The focus of the Government will continue to be on making sure that the prime minister’s direction, all the plans for making sure that we can defeat coronavirus, and can pull the country through this challenge will be taken forward,” he said.

Since the news of Johnson’s admission to intensive care broke yesterday, there has been an outpouring of well wishes from world leaders.

United States President Donald Trump sent “best wishes to a very good friend of mine and a friend to our nation”.

“We’re very saddened to hear he was taken into intensive care this afternoon (yesterday), a little while ago. Americans are all praying for his recovery,” Trump told a press conference.

“We’ll see if we can be of help. We’ve contacted all of Boris’ doctors and we’ll see what is going to take place. But they are ready to go.”

French President Emmanuel Macron gave his “full support to Boris Johnson, his family and the British people at this difficult time”.

“I hope he will rapidly overcome this ordeal,” he tweeted.

Meanwhile, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose wife tested positive last month, wished Johnson a full and speedy recovery.

“My thoughts are with you and your family right now. Hope to see you back at Number 10 soon,” he tweeted.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the World Health Organization chief, also sent his “heartfelt good wishes” to Johnson as he battles the coronavirus.

“I know the NHS and its dedicated health workers will be looking after you,” he tweeted.

COVID-19 cases, according to Johns Hopkins University, have so far topped 1.3 million with more than 74,500 deaths and just over 276,500 recoveries.

— Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse

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