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