UK government: Johnson is absolutely on top of things

British government responds to criticism that Prime Minister Boris Johnson was "missing in action" in early stages of coronavirus pandemic.

Ben Ariel ,

Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson

The British government insisted on Sunday that Prime Minister Boris Johnson was “on top of things" as he recovers from the coronavirus amid criticism of his early handling of the crisis, AFP reported.

Johnson was admitted to the hospital two weeks ago after being diagnosed with COVID-19.

He was transferred to intensive care a day later when his condition deteriorated and was discharged a week ago.

Senior minister Michael Gove said on Sunday that it was too early to consider easing the restrictions on the public given the “worrying" number of deaths from the virus.

Britain's official death toll from the virus now stands at 16,060 after 596 more deaths were reported Sunday. The country has been under lockdown since March 23, with the government extending it until at least the end of the month.

Gove also sought to defend Johnson after the Prime Minister was accused of being “missing in action" in the early stages of the outbreak.

Johnson “is absolutely on top of things" and issuing instructions, Gove was quoted as having told Sky News, adding, “The Prime Minister is recovering well, he is in cheerful spirits."

His comments came after a Sunday Times newspaper report said Johnson had missed five of the government's emergency response meetings in January and February.

The opposition Labour Party's shadow health minister Jonathan Ashworth said in response, “None of us expect the impossible, but there are serious questions about why the prime minister skipped Cobra meetings. It suggests early on he was missing in action."

Gove, for his part, claimed there were inaccuracies in the Sunday Times report and added that the government would issue a rebuttal.

“The idea that the Prime Minister ‘skipped' meetings, I think, is grotesque, there are meetings across government, some chaired by the health secretary, some chaired by other ministers," he was quoted as having said.

“The Prime Minister took all the major decisions. Nobody can say that the Prime Minister wasn't throwing heart and soul into the virus," added Gove.