Is there a coronavirus outbreak in Downing Street? Inside the rumors
Since the beginning of the week 10 Downing Street, otherwise known as the headquarters of the U.K. government, has been buzzing with news of a local coronavirus case. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, along with other government faculty, have been exposed to a COVID-19 case and forced to quarantine.
Many question whether or not a full coronavirus outbreak is in full swing at 10 Downing Street. After all, it’s not the first time the prime minister has been in contact with the deadly virus. Is the U.K. government taking proper precautions in their own government building or are they flaunting the very COVID-19 restrictions they put in place?
Boris Johnson and other U.K. heads of state would certainly argue it is the former. Let’s take a look at what’s going on in 10 Downing Street.
Boris Johnson & COVID-19
Boris Johnson and the novel coronavirus are no strangers to each other. Johnson contracted the virus back in March of 2020. It dealt the prime minister a nearly deadly blow. Speculations are that Johnson caught it from one of his health ministers during an event on Downing Street on March 5th.
Johnson began quarantine quite a while after the 5th. Once he tested positive for COVID-19 on March 27th he started quarantine. Johnson’s health deteriorated more and more. He found himself in the intensive care unit come April and over the course of his treatment he nearly died.
Most would think after having a brush with death like that one he would heed coronavirus precautions to the letter. Well, not exactly.
How leadership has handled novel coronavirus outbreaks
Boris Johnson is not the only head of government who’s fought with the novel coronavirus one on one. As most know, President Trump has tangled with the monster himself. As someone who’s been seen as too lax in his attitude toward U.S. handling of the pandemic, many people were happy at his misfortune.
Trump recovered rather quickly though, and he was back at it again, promoting his pro-economy limited lockdown stance even before he felt back to normal. Some might say he’s bolder than ever.
Trump’s been tooting the horn of Operation Warp Speed and its fast progress into developing a COVID-19 vaccine. With the antibodies that come with beating the virus one can imagine Trump may feel even more inclined to be lax in social distancing. It would be easy for a feeling of invincibility to take hold.
It’s easy to wonder if Boris Johnson has the same kind of attitude underneath it all. He’s been a proponent of lockdowns and safety protocols for months but many would argue he was rather slow to act at the beginning of the crisis. Some see him as merely bending to the whim of the most recent trend.
Is Number 10 coronavirus friendly?
With all that said, what’s it like where the prime minister lives and works? Has it become a den of viral infection? Not exactly. Boris Johnson has come in contact with the virus but hasn’t tested positive. He is continuing his 14-day quarantine out of respect for the NHS COVID-19 protocols he encourages UK citizens to practice every day.
Johnson encouraged citizens in a video update on Twitter, “Don’t forget: hands, face, space. Get a test if you have symptoms and if NHS Test and Trace contacts you and say you’ve got to self-isolate then follow the rules. That’s what I’m going to do. . .”
As strong of a message as that may seem its effect is tempered when faced with the reality of 10 Downing Street’s everyday practices. Staffers who work in the building have pointed out how impossible it’s been to properly follow social distancing protocols while at work.
Although restrictions and adherence to social-distancing policies were strengthened after Johnson’s serious health battle with the virus, operations have inched closer to normal protocol over time. One PCS spokesperson commented that their members have “serious doubts as to the competency levels of ministers when it comes to following Covid safety measures.”
It is of course impossible to 100% prevent the spread, but some argue with incidents like members of government coming into contact with the virus over and over again, it would be wiser to ban face-to-face meetings like the one that caused Johnson to go into isolation.