Boris Johnson will 'fight' COVID-19 and has what it takes to recover: envoy

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Boris Johnson is a fighter who has what it takes to recover from his COVID-19 affliction, Britain's envoy to Canada said Tuesday.

Johnson was in intensive care in a British hospital and has become the first major world leader to be hit that hard by the novel coronavirus.

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High Commissioner Susan le Jeune d’Allegeershecque said the fact Johnson was breathing without a ventilator was a good sign.

"He's stable. The good thing is he's not getting any worse. He's having oxygen but he's not on a respirator," le Jeune d'Allegeershecque said in an interview. (Generally, a mechanical breathing device is called a ventilator and a respirator is a type of filtration mask, but ventilators used to be called respirators in some places.)

"He's a fighter; the guy has got huge energy and great determination. We're all hoping and confident that he's going to recover."

She reiterated what Johnson's "temporary" replacement, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, has said: that the 55-year-old prime minister is in good spirits.

She described Johnson's affliction as "unsettling" and "disturbing" but said the plan Johnson put in place for Britain to fight COVID-19 before he needed to be hospitalized will carry the country through.

"Dominic Raab has been very clear that his role is to implement the decisions on a country-wide basis. The direction was very clearly set before the prime minister had to go into hospital."

Le Jeune d'Allegeershecque said Canada is co-operating closely with Britain on the crisis and the two countries are speaking with one voice against any country that espouses protectionism.

That has includes taking the U.S. to task over reports of critical medical supplies not being shared, she said.

"We both agree that this crisis must not be used as an excuse to impose unnecessarily protectionist measures to shut down free trade," she said.

"When we have both had issues, we have engaged right at the highest levels of the U.S. to explain we do not think that important vital supplies or whatever equipment or goods it is, should be held up."

Keeping global supply chains operating has been key to combating the crisis and le Jeune d'Allegeershecque said Canada and Britain have been doing their part by keeping air cargo links open for transatlantic trade.

Britain is receiving a lot of Canadian grain, which she said is vital for its ability to make bread.

And she said pharmaceuticals from Britain continue to flow unimpeded to Canada.

Britain's planned exit from the European Union that is to take place at the end of the year has not been derailed by COVID-19 but it has been slowed down, said le Jeune d'Allegeershecque.

"We haven't stopped because this remains important, but I think other things are taking slightly higher precedence," she said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has posted on social media that his thoughts are with Johnson and his family.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer and former prime minister Stephen Harper also sent their wishes for a speedy recovery.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on April 7, 2020.

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