Coronavirus: Should Boris Johnson take time off sick? – leader comment

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has Covid-19, may be trying to soldier on when it would be better for him and the country if he took time off.
Covid-19 sufferer Boris Johnson did not look well in his latest video message to the nation, despite saying he was 'feeling better' (Picture: Boris Johnson/PA)Covid-19 sufferer Boris Johnson did not look well in his latest video message to the nation, despite saying he was 'feeling better' (Picture: Boris Johnson/PA)
Covid-19 sufferer Boris Johnson did not look well in his latest video message to the nation, despite saying he was 'feeling better' (Picture: Boris Johnson/PA)

While Boris Johnson insisted he was “feeling better” despite continuing to suffer from Covid-19, he admitted he still had a temperature and his eyes looked weary as he urged people not to break the lockdown rules this weekend – even if they were starting to feel “a bit stir-crazy”.

The Prime Minister has carried on working while in self-isolation, where he remains, and he may regard this as an important thing for him to do in a genuine attempt to provide reassurance to the country that the person who is supposed to be in charge still is and the wheels of government are still turning, not falling off.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

However, any head of government worthy of the title will experience significant amounts of stress and worry about the decisions they are required to make, even in more normal times. And, in a life-and-death situation like the current coronavirus pandemic, those pressures will be greatly increased.

Read More
Listen as an emotional Nicola Sturgeon discusses not being able to see her famil...

So it’s possible that by continuing to work, Johnson is actually putting his health at greater risk. No government should revolve entirely around one person. The health of dictators and absolute monarchs – or the appearance of it – may be crucial to their survival, but this is not true in a democracy.

Prime Ministers are allowed to take time off – as Johnson’s recent holiday to St Vincent and the Grenadines in the Caribbean demonstrated.

And, even if he is not damaging his own recovery, he could end up setting a bad example for the rest of the country. Company bosses may decide that if Johnson can ‘bravely soldier on’, then so will they. And some are likely to then conclude that if they can do it, why not their staff?

Johnson and his advisers might fear he would look weak to ‘go off sick’, but no one would – or should – blame him. And it would also help get the message across that this disease should not be treated in any way lightly.

Some amateur experts appear to have focussed on the higher chance of death among the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions, but the Covid-related deaths of people like Areema Nasreen and Aimee O’Rourke, both nurses in their 30s and each mothers of three children, should underline that the lives of every one of us are in danger.

Just as no one is bulletproof, no one is Covid-proof. If the Prime Minister publicly acknowledged this by taking time off to speed his recovery, it could help get this message across – however stir-crazy Johnson might end up feeling.

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this article on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our advertisers - and consequently the revenue we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription.

Subscribe to and enjoy unlimited access to Scottish news and information online and on our app. With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Visit now to sign up.

Our journalism costs money and we rely on advertising, print and digital revenues to help to support them. By supporting us, we are able to support you in providing trusted, fact-checked content for this website.

Frank O’Donnell

Editorial Director



Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.