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UK Government Wishes Trump Speedy Recovery After Positive Coronavirus Test Result

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

So President Trump is just the latest world leader to get the coronavirus. The British prime minister and other world leaders are offering their support to him. But Boris Johnson's own experience could provide some perspective into what may be to come. Johnson tested positive for the coronavirus back in March. He has wished President Trump a speedy recovery.

For more on the reaction in Britain and elsewhere, we've got NPR's London correspondent Frank Langfitt. Hi, Frank.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Hey. Good morning, Rachel.

MARTIN: What did Boris Johnson say?

LANGFITT: Well, it was a quick pro forma note this morning on Twitter, but it was amplified by Johnson's housing secretary. His name is Robert Jenrick. He was on Britain's Sky TV News (ph) this morning, and this is what he had to say.

(SOUNDBITE OF SKY NEWS BROADCAST)

ROBERT JENRICK: All of us want to send our best wishes to President Trump, the first lady and the Trump family and wish them a speedy recovery. We know what it's like to have, in our case, a prime minister who tested positive for COVID. And setting aside politics, we all want to see him and his wife get better soon.

LANGFITT: And Rachel, we've also seen get-well notes this morning from Narendra Modi, the prime minister of India; Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a telegram saying, I'm certain that your inherent vitality, good spirits and optimism will help you cope with this dangerous virus - and also good wishes from the German chancellor, Angela Merkel.

MARTIN: Well, how instructive can Boris Johnson's experience actually be? Because he was sick right away, right? And he went to the hospital. President Trump doesn't even have any symptoms. He could remain that way throughout.

LANGFITT: He could, and I think Tam makes a great point as this is thoroughly unpredictable. And even though the president is considerably older - 18 years older than Boris Johnson - that doesn't mean he's necessarily going to get sick. What we found with Johnson here is he ended up with three days in the ICU.

And it's - listening to Tam was very instructive because this sounds like a repeat of what we saw here in the United Kingdom back in March and April. Boris Johnson didn't take this that seriously. Even in early March, he was saying - he was shaking hands and not really taking it very seriously. And he ended up, of course, getting sick and designated his foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, to handle duties. That was for a number of days when he was really - or even longer, perhaps, two weeks when he was really out of it. But he survived, and he came back to work. And that does seem like a bit of a distant memory here now.

MARTIN: Right. Remind us what the British reaction was when Johnson fell sick.

LANGFITT: Well, I think that there was a bit of schadenfreude in the sense that Johnson had seemed very cavalier about this. But then, once he got sick, people rallied around him. They were quite supportive, but that goodwill has dissipated since then because Johnson's continued to make mistakes, frankly, on handling COVID and other policy matters. And his recent polls now show his approval down below 40%.

MARTIN: So I mean, President Trump joins a long list now - a lengthening list, anyway - of leaders who've contracted the virus. Can you remind us of those names?

LANGFITT: Sure. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro - he's 65. He, of course, like these others, ignored social distancing, embraced public rallies and tested positive back in July. Juan Orlando Hernandez - he's 51 - president of Honduras, he contracted it in June, was hospitalized and then released. And last month, Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei - he's 64 - he tested positive. But it's worth noting all of these presidents have survived, and I'm sure President Trump will get very good care. And we'll just have to see what comes in the next few days.

MARTIN: NPR's London correspondent Frank Langfitt for us.

Thanks, Frank.

LANGFITT: You're very welcome, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.