Queen’s Illness Comes at Awkward Time for Boris Johnson

Queen’s Illness Comes at Awkward Time for Boris Johnson

The announcement that Queen Elizabeth II had tested positive for the coronavirus comes at an awkward moment for Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain, who was expected to announce this week the lifting of the remaining pandemic restrictions in England, including the legal requirement for those who test positive to isolate.

Mr. Johnson, who faces a police investigation into whether he himself broke lockdown laws, had been expected to bring to an early end the restrictions that were scheduled to expire on March 24.

It was not immediately clear whether news of the queen’s diagnosis would change the timing of Mr. Johnson’s decision, which is expected as part of a statement on how Britain intends to live with coronavirus.

But in a Twitter thread posted before Buckingham Palace’s announcement on Sunday, Mr. Johnson said that, thanks to the vaccination program, the country was “now in a position to set out our plan for living with Covid this week.”

“Covid will not suddenly disappear, and we need to learn to live with this virus and continue to protect ourselves without restricting our freedoms,” Mr. Johnson added.

Mr. Johnson later tweeted well-wishes to the queen, saying, “I’m sure I speak for everyone in wishing Her Majesty The Queen a swift recovery from Covid and a rapid return to vibrant good health.”

Downing Street had already said that, under his new plan, those who tested positive would still be asked to avoid contact with others and would be urged by the government to stay away from work and to avoid infecting others. However the legal requirement to do so would be scrapped.

The government was also expected to scale back its costly testing regime, restricting the use of coronavirus tests that are currently distributed for free.

A vocal wing of Mr. Johnson’s Conservative Party opposes coronavirus restrictions and, given his political weakness, Mr. Johnson might have struggled to persuade his own backbenchers to agree to any extension of the legal requirement to self-isolate, with fines for those who break the rules.

However some public health experts have criticized the idea of changing isolation rules, and the opposition Labour Party has said that its support for the measure cannot be guaranteed without seeing the science behind the proposal.

In the past week, more than 300,000 people tested positive for the virus in Britain, and nearly 1,000 people died, according to government statistics.

On Sunday Wes Streeting, who speaks for the Labour Party on health issues, told the BBC that lifting mandatory self-isolation rules was at this stage “not the right thing to do.”

And concerns over the health of the queen is likely to draw attention to the continuing risks posed by the virus.

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