Jack Quann
Jack Quann

11.41 19 Jun 2020


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The father of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he has sent his son a novel for his birthday, which deals with a viral outbreak.

The book - written by Stanley Johnson - was first published in 1982 under the title The Marburg Virus.

The fictionalised piece follows a hero epidemiologist who races against time to develop a vaccine against the unknown virus.

Based on a real event in Germany in the late 1960s, the long out-of-print novel - now just called The Virus - is set to be re-issued this summer.

It saw students in a medical school laboratory contract the virus.

Stanley Johnson told Pat Kenny his son - who's birthday falls on Friday - has read the book.

"I have sent him a copy of the book as a birthday present.

"I hope someone has properly sterilised it if it arrived in Downing Street, wiped it down".

On the book itself, he said: "I had to search out the origin of the infection: where were the monkeys where the disease came from, what could be done, could they be found?

"Could they possibly be used to find the vaccine?

"The point I wanted to make in this book [was] to really have an effective vaccine, you have to find the vector.

"There were lots of lessons there".

"It seemed to me absolutely clear that this vaccine business had dramatic geo-political implications and so did the infection.

"It was all part of the Cold War scenario.

"And today... yes we're dealing with coronavirus, but actually it may sound callus to say so - but truth to tell the mortality rate on the coronavirus is fairly low.

"Fairly low in the sense that it's probably around one in a thousand".

On his son recovering from COVID-19, he said: "Both I and all the members of my family were very worried - who wouldn't be worried if a child was confronted with this sort of situation.

"And it was certainly worrying when he went into intensive care; and I've got to say I felt particularly relieved, as you can imagine, when the word came that he was out of intensive care.

"I think the government is actually doing fine.

"If you go back to March - I think officially lockdown in [England] started... in March the 23rd.

"At that stage you see the government's overwhelming objection was not to have the National Health Service overwhelmed - and I think you can say that that has been a truly successful operation.

"We have, touch wood, so far, come out the other side without the chaos which would have happened if our National Health Service had been overwhelmed."

He also said there is some hope with dexamethasone - a drug which acts as an anti-inflammatory, particularly for those under ventilation.

"I'm not saying that means we should all rush out and go about our life as before, but I am saying that I think there's light at the end of the tunnel here.

"And we are seeing now, in Britain, the beginning of a relaxation of some of the lockdown rules".

There have been more than 300,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK and over 42,300 people have died.

This sees Britain with the third-highest death rate in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University in the US.

It is behind the US (over 118,000 deaths) and Brazil (over 47,700 deaths) with Italy the fourth highest (more than 34,500 deaths).

It comes as the alert level for coronavirus across the UK is set to be downgraded from the current level four to level three, the country's chief medical officers have said.

They said the move has been recommended after a "steady decrease" in COVID-19 cases in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Level four means the virus is in general circulation and that transmission is high or rising exponentially, while level three means the epidemic is in general circulation.

Boris Johnson's father sends him novel on viral outbreak for his birthday

00:00:00 / 00:00:00

    

Additional reporting: IRN
Main image: Boris Johnson's father, Stanley, speaks to the media at the UK Conservative Party Conference in October 2019. Picture by: Isabel Infantes/EMPICS Entertainment

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