British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he is following through on an order to self-isolate despite being “bursting with antibodies” after recovering from the coronavirus earlier this year.
Johnson, who was seriously ill with the virus in April, insisted in a Twitter video that he feels as “fit as a butcher’s dog” after being contacted by the national test-and-trace system.
Johnson met with a group of Conservative MPs for about 35 minutes on Thursday. One, Lee Anderson, later developed coronavirus symptoms and tested positive.
In the video, Johnson said he had been “pinged” by the test-and-trace network, which has come under scrutiny for its accuracy in alerting infected people’s contacts. Johnson said his notification was evidence the system was working.
He suggested his past COVID-19 diagnosis puts him at a lower risk of catching it again.
“Actually, it doesn’t matter that I’ve had the disease and I’m bursting with antibodies,” he said. “We’ve got to interrupt the spread of the disease and one of the ways we can do that now is by self-isolating when contacted by test and trace.”
While there is a growing body of research suggesting COVID-19 antibodies can be present for months after infection, the World Health Organization and scientists from around the globe have stressed that their presence does not equal immunity to reinfection.
At this point, experts believe known incidences of reinfection to be rare, though there are some examples in the United States and Europe.
Johnson spent about a week in hospital with the disease in April, including three nights in intensive care.
The prime minister’s 14-day self-isolation comes at a difficult moment for his government.
Johnson is due to lead meetings to decide next steps in Britain’s response to the pandemic. This is also a pivotal week for Brexit, as negotiations with the EU reach their final phase.
Britain has recorded nearly 52,000 deaths of people who tested positive for the virus — the highest toll in Europe. As of Nov. 16, there have been more than 1,372,000 confirmed cases of the virus in the U.K., according to a running tally by Johns Hopkins University.
— with files from the Associated Press
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