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What Europe really thinks about Johnson's need for oxygen

Written by: Chiara Rambaldi

The British Prime Minister Boris Johnson for several weeks refused to follow the lockdown model of the majority of European countries, instead promoting a herd immunity plan.

However, he became the first leader to have contracted the Coronavirus.

Boris Johnson - Picture credit: The Mirror

The turmoil of Johnson’s diagnosis spread quickly worldwide, creating turmoil and fear, as two other members of his staff tested positive to the virus too, namely Matt Hancock, the government’s healthy secretary, and Chris Whitty, Johnson’s chief medical adviser.

Even if sick, Mr. Johnson, reported through Twitter that he would keep up with his governmental duties and highlighted how important it was for everyone else to stay at home.

However, over the last few days, Johnson’s health conditions worsened so much that on Monday night he had to be transferred into intensive care because of severe respiratory conditions, some of the common covid-19 symptoms.

The PM duties were taken over immediately by Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary.

Alot has changed from when Boris Johnson himself was firmly choosing to adopt a herd immunity strategy, despite the majority of medical advisers’ criticisms about the program flaws.

Other world leaders, such as the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have been self-isolating, however, no Western leader has seen the Coronavirus threaten its political establishment as Britain has recently.

Until this week, Mr. Johnson seemed not to fear the severity of the virus, reporting to a news conference in March that he visited a hospital full of Covid-19 patients where he said “I shook hands with everybody, you’ll be pleased to know, and I continue to shake hands.”

Johnson claimed he was guided by his scientific and medical advisers, and that strategically the government needed to implement social distancing measures in a gradual manner to ensure that the public would comply with them.

As the number of reported Covid-19 cases started to grow exponentially, a report by Imperial College of London warned the government that the UK was risking the same fate as Italy, where the explosion of positive Coronavirus patients overloaded the health system.

Unexpectedly, Johnson changed course by banning public meetings of more than two people and urging people to stay at home.

Now, unfortunately, he faces the scary reality of being a coronavirus patient. Many critics from other European countries rained down on the UK Prime Minister, denouncing the failures and the problematics of the herd immunity his government originally pursued to fight the virus.

Covered with wishes for a speedy recovery, the main European leaders uncovered their real thoughts about Johnson’s unexpected illness in their home country press. Comments such as “he would not stop coughing and spitting during video conferences with his team” who is now “infecting our minds”, or “perfect description of how the amorphous masses (referring to England) are fooled by the magic pipers who take advantage of the mental weakness of too many”, and also "don't spare British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and not even his health minister...the vaccine against sovereignty”. As a matter of fact, it took several but vital weeks for Johnson's government to impose social distancing measures even though it was already clear how valuable time was and that immediate action was needed to try to contain the so-easily-spreading virus. Despite the fact those measures needed to be implemented immediately. On March 12, Johnson spoke publicly declaring that the UK's attempts to contain the virus outbreak failed.

"I must level with you, level with the British public, many more families are going to lose loved ones before their time," he said. The lack of testing and the sick NHS staff have been an acute problem for the British health system, but the government has also been criticized for failing to provide essential personal protective equipment for frontline medical staff and a shortage of other critical equipment, such as ventilators, for patients in critical conditions. Unsurprisingly, Johnson's herd immunity strategy that rested on the premise that only the vulnerable ones would become gravely ill with Coronavirus, namely the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions, started cracking from its own inventor: the Prime Minister himself. Johnson’s fight against Covid-19 clearly shows that everyone is vulnerable, and that this virus is more “democratic” than anything else. In this concerning scenario, many are questioning whether the NHS staff, in whose hands the PM’s life now depends, have had their jobs made more risky by the policies his government chose not pursue in addressing this pandemic.

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