LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will return to work at 10 Downing Street in London on Monday, three weeks after he was admitted to a hospital here as his coronavirus symptoms worsened.
The 55-year-old has been recuperating at his prime ministerial countryside retreat at chequers in Buckinghamshire since he was discharged on April 12 and had put UK foreign secretary Dominic Raab in charge as his deputy.
“We can confirm that the Prime Minister will be returning to Downing Street on Monday,” a Downing Street spokesperson said.
Johnson is reportedly “raring to go” and will be back to an initially light work schedule from next week, starting with a meeting with UK health secretary Matt Hancock, who had confirmed earlier in the week that the UK Prime Minister was “on the mend in a big way”.
Johnson is also likely to go head to head with opposition leader Keir Starmer during the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) on Wednesday – the first time the two leaders will come face to face in Parliament since Starmer’s election as the leader of the Labour Party earlier this month.
In a letter to the UK Prime Minister issued this weekend ahead of his return to the despatch box, Starmer said the government risks “falling behind the rest of the world” by refusing to discuss an exit strategy to the lockdown in place to suppress the transmission of coronavirus.
He has piled pressure on Johnson to enhance the government’s testing programme against the deadly virus by using town halls and libraries that are currently closed as emergency testing centres.
“The public have made great sacrifices to make lockdown work. They deserve to be part of an adult conversation about what comes next. We are engaging constructively to protect our country and, to that end, I offer a series of considerations for the Prime Minister in my letter,” said Starmer.
Johnson is under immense pressure to start finalising plans to ease the severe social distancing restrictions in place at least until May 7, when the government is legally bound to review the lockdown measures.
“We know that people are frustrated, but we are not out of danger yet. It is imperative that people continue to follow the rules designed to protect their families, their friends and their loved ones. This will continue to save lives,” said UK home secretary Priti Patel, when she led the daily Downing Street briefing on Saturday evening.
“We all want to return to living our lives as normally as possible, and, of course, as soon and as safely as we can – and that’s what the entire government is working towards,” she said, indicating that the measures being substantially eased up any time soon was unlikely as the UK crossed the grim milestone of over 20,000 hospital deaths from coronavirus this week.
The Indian-origin Cabinet minister is believed to have spoken to the National Police Chiefs’ Council about the possibility of increasing on-the-spot fines for breaking social-distancing rules as evidence emerged that the public were tired of it.
According to some reports a “second phase” of measures to combat COVID-19 being overseen by Patel will see passengers arriving at British airports and ports being placed in quarantine for up to a fortnight. It would be in line with the 14-day “stay home” notices currently issued to Singaporean citizens returning to their country from abroad.