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Boris Johnson Tests Positive For Coronavirus, Is Self-Isolating

Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he will self-isolate and continue to work in 10 Downing Street in London, announcing his positive test for the coronavirus. He's seen here Thursday night, joining in the U.K.'s national applause for health service workers who are helping to fight the coronavirus.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has tested positive for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, he announced Friday. In a video announcement, Johnson said he has "mild symptoms" of COVID-19, including a fever and "a persistent cough."

Johnson is the first world leader found to be infected with the coronavirus. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is under self-quarantine after her doctor tested positive for the virus. She has undergone two tests that yielded negative results; a third test is scheduled for early next week.

Like Merkel, Johnson says he will continue to work as he self-isolates.

"Over the last 24 hours I have developed mild symptoms and tested positive for coronavirus," Johnson said via Twitter. "I am now self-isolating, but I will continue to lead the government's response via video-conference as we fight this virus. Together we will beat this."

If Johnson is unable to carry out his official duties, his role would likely be filled temporarily by Dominic Raab, the U.K.'s foreign secretary and first secretary of state, 10 Downing Street said early this week. The U.K. lacks regimented lines of succession for the prime minister's office, and the government does not currently have a deputy prime minister – a post that's appointed at the prime minister's discretion. Raab, like Johnson, is a member of the Conservative Party.

The U.K. currently has nearly 12,o00 coronavirus cases, and 580 people have died from COVID-19, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Saying that he will now join millions of other people in working from home, Johnson added, "Be in no doubt that I can continue, thanks to the wizardry of modern technology, to communicate with all of my top team to lead the national fight back against coronavirus."

Johnson announced his positive test the morning after he joined thousands of other people around the U.K. in a public show of support for the National Health Service, which is at the front line in the fight against COVID-19. Johnson appeared outside of 10 Downing Street at 8 p.m. local time to clap his hands and applaud health workers.

"It was very moving last night to join in that national clap," Johnson said, praising health staff, police, teachers and others who have been working hard to do their jobs at a time when they're sorely needed.

"I want to thank everybody who's working to keep our country going through this epidemic," Johnson said, adding, "And we will get through it."

News of Johnson's coronavirus status comes two days after Prince Charles revealed he had also tested positive for the respiratory virus, which has now killed nearly 25,000 people worldwide. Charles is in self-isolation in Scotland.

Earlier this week, Johnson ordered a nearly complete lockdown on all of the U.K., requiring people to stay home with one trip out a day for exercise and to purchase groceries and other necessities at supermarkets and pharmacies. That step came after thousands of Britons neglected to follow health experts' advice for people to practice social distancing.

The lockdown followed growing criticism of Johnson's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, with many saying stricter measures were long overdue.

NPR's Frank Langfitt contributed to this report.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.