For the health of the nation, shouldn’t Johnson’s medical fitness for office be scrutinised? | Boris Johnson
Just six words, Doctor Who said, would be enough to bring down the unprincipled prime minister Harriet Jones. “Don’t you think she looks tired?”
Would it work on a man? Time to find out. “I have read a lot of nonsense recently, about how my own bout of Covid has somehow robbed me of my mojo,” Boris Johnson said in his party conference speech. Was he thinking of the Daily Telegraph, where he appeared“strangely out of sorts”, or of the protracted lament by a former fan, the Spectator’s Toby Young: “What on earth happened to the freedom-loving, twinkly-eyed, Rabelaisian character I voted for?” Young cited one theory, “that the disease actually damaged his brain in some way”.
Covid-19 damage featured again in a Times report detailing the exhaustion of a miserable and forgetful prime minister, who was also struggling with his latest infant, whose exact age recently escaped him. “Physically, I think Covid has had huge impact, definitely,” a source said.
“Of course,” Johnson told conference, “this is self-evident drivel, the kind of seditious propaganda that you would expect from people who don’t want this government to succeed.” This seems unnecessarily harsh on some recently prized supporters, yet more unkind to the elderly huntsman Sir Humphry Wakefield, father-in-law of Dominic Cummings, who reportedly said that Johnson is so unwell he will step down in months and should not have gone back to work early because you’d never do that with a horse.
Johnson added, presumably for the benefit of the imaginary seditious propagandists to whom, in dreams, he shows scant mercy: “I could refute these critics of my athletic abilities in any way they want: arm-wrestle, leg-wrestle, Cumberland wrestle, sprint-off, you name it.” And if protecting the population in a pandemic ultimately came down to the prime minister’s victory in next summer’s Lakeland Games, while a non-catastrophic Brexit depended upon the physical humbling of Michel Barnier in a series of tap-room challenges, hopefully excluding the more cerebral skittles or darts, that might indeed have been one of Johnson’s more impressive performances since, well, maybe that time he identified as the Incredible Hulk?
Alas, the most convincing rebuttal of unkind post-Covid-19 “Don’t you think Johnson looks tired/sick/thick/dishevelled/shifty/dandruffy/unRabelaisian” commentary is the one line Johnson can’t deploy: what the hell did you think he was like before?
As it is, Johnson’s affirmation of undiminished mojo seems to have been roughly as effective as reports of Donald Trump’s alleged plan to prove his potency by ripping off his shirt to reveal a Superman T-shirt. Like Trump’s accompanying protestations of perfect health and eternal youth, the (unrealised) stunt only added to his critics’ case for invoking the 25th amendment, which allows Congress to rule a president unfit for office. Regular medicals, even if these duly descended into farce under Trump, also mean that, at least in theory, US politics legitimises public interest in a leader’s physical and intellectual fitness for the job.
However idiotic, Johnson’s boasting about Hulk-level athleticism suggests a measure of respect
By Yves Herman and Marine Strauss
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The Belgian government will convene on Friday to decide on a potential new national lockdown with the country now suffering the highest rate of coronavirus infections per 100,000 citizens, according to official data.
The nation of 11 million people had 1,390 new COVID-19 infections per 100,000 residents over the past two weeks, data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control showed on Tuesday.
The Czech Republic is next with 1,379 per 100,000, while many other European countries are reporting soaring infection rates in a second wave of the global pandemic abetted by the onset of cold, damp winter weather.
New daily infections in Belgium, where the European Union and NATO have their headquarters, hit a peak of more than 18,000 on Oct. 20, almost a 10-fold rise from the high of a spring wave of the pandemic.
The number of patients in intensive care units (ICUs) is doubling every eight days – to 809 as of Monday – with 5,260 people in hospitals, which risk running out of beds. Belgian foreign affairs minister and former PM Sophie Wilmes was still in intensive care in Brussels, after testing positive to COVID-19 last week.
In Liege, the Belgian city with the highest number of COVID-19 infections, hundreds of patients are admitted daily, its main hospital said in a Facebook post.
If the rate of hospitalisation continues at this rhythm, the hospital said it would head “straight into a wall,” according to the Facebook post.
“What’s complicated is that we constantly have to open new units, put in place new teams of nurses and doctors, to take care of those patients, and this flow of patients is in the end continuous,” Christelle Meuris, an infectious disease specialist who oversees a COVID-19 unit at the hospital, told Reuters.
With 10,899 total deaths, Belgium has one of the highest per capita COVID-19 fatality rates in the world.
The federal cabinet will meet on Friday to further tighten measures to curb COVID-19 contagion, a week after tightening curbs on social contacts by banning fans from sports matches and limiting numbers in cultural spaces.
The government of the Wallonia region imposed a longer night curfew while in the capital Brussels, all sport and cultural facilities were ordered on Saturday to close and residents were subjected to a longer curfew from Monday.
(Reporting by Yves Herman and Marine Strauss with additional reporting by Kate Abnett; Editing by Mark Heinrich)
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