LONDON – It was a rare speech intended to reassure a nation struggling with the weight of a pandemic.
“The better days will come,” said Queen Elizabeth II, echoing the beloved song of the Second World War, “We will see each other again”, which offered hope to many on the front lines. “We will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we’ll see each other again. “
But shortly after the Queen’s rallying cry over her subjects ended on Sunday evening, British cell phones were overrun with news that Prime Minister Boris Johnson had been hospitalized – 10 days after his diagnosis of COVID -19.
While his Downing Street office said it was a “precautionary measure” and that Johnson remained at the helm of the government, the news nonetheless underscored the deep crisis facing Britain as it attempts to control the coronavirus epidemic.
The country has recorded 47,806 cases of the new virus and 4,934 deaths, according to statistics released by the Ministry of Health. As the numbers rise, Johnson’s government has come under fire for the lack of tests available in Britain – having promised weeks ago to quickly increase tests.
The Prime Minister’s office said on Monday that coronavirus tests had exceeded 16,000 in the UK on Sunday, according to the British news wire, exceeding the initial commitment of 10,000 a day the government made last month.
But progress in increasing the number of tests has been slow. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said at a news conference last week that 100,000 tests per day would be completed by the end of April.
Let our news respond to your inbox. The news and stories that matter, delivered in the morning on weekdays.
Then came the news that Scotland’s chief medical officer had been forced to resign after visiting his second home two weekends in a row, breaking his own advice to stay home to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.
And now the country faces its leader in the hospital.
Johnson’s office said admission to hospital was on the advice of his doctor and was not an emergency, but despite this, the news raises questions about how the 55-year-old man can lead a besieged nation from its hospital bed. Foreign Minister Dominic Raab was scheduled to chair the government’s coronavirus meeting on Monday.
Pressed to know whether it was safe for the Prime Minister to continue working at the hospital on Monday, his official spokesman said Johnson would follow doctors’ advice. Johnson would remain at the head of the government, the spokesman added.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister tweeted Monday that he was “in a good mood”.
And yet, even despite alarming political developments, the British seemed to find comfort in the can-do spirit of the Queen, who is admired beyond the borders of the United Kingdom.
Many have taken advantage of social media to express their gratitude.
“I am so proud to be British and to have Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth as Head of State. Very moved by watching her speech “, former Labor MP, Kate Hoey tweeted on Sunday.
“She is also our queen. And it touches many hearts around the world, including #Canadians like me, ” replied another Twitter user.
It’s a rare event. The Queen gives annual Christmas messages but has given an address like this only three times, according to the Associated Press.
She gave speeches after the Queen Mother died in 2002, before the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997, and during the First Gulf War in 1991.
In Sunday’s speech, the Queen offered her support to the country and drew parallels to Britain’s struggle during the Second World War.
“It reminds me of the very first show I did in 1940 with the help of my sister. As children, we have spoken here to Windsor to children who have been evacuated from their homes and returned for their own safety, “she said.
“Today, again, many will experience a painful feeling of separation from their loved ones. But now, as then, we know, deep down, that this is the right thing to do. “
The Associated Press contributed to this report.