US President Donald Trump has tested positive for COVID-19. Experts explain the possible fallout of world leaders catching the coronavirus.
The coronavirus, which causes the disease called COVID-19, has killed more than one million people worldwide and infected over 34 million. It has spread to at least 188 countries.
This week, US President Donald Trump tested positive after his close adviser Hope Hicks also contracted the disease, and Trump said he had self-quarantined.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro have also previously contracted the virus.
In April, several experts weighed in on the possible social, political, and economic effects of a major world leader contracting COVID-19.
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As COVID-19 continues to spread around the world, experts have weighed in on the possible social, political, and economic fallout of heads of states contracting the virus.
On October 1, US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump both tested positive for the virus after Trump's close adviser, Hope Hicks, contracted the disease. Several outlets reported that Hicks had traveled with Trump aboard Air Force One to and from the first presidential debate earlier in the week and that White House officials had known about her condition for at least 24 hours before it was made public by Bloomberg.
Following news of Hicks' condition, Trump said he was waiting on the results of a COVID-19 test, before tweeting later in the evening that he and his wife had been diagnosed with the disease.
Hicks is one of several people in the president's orbit who has tested positive for the disease, which the World Health Organization declared a pandemic in March. As of October 1, it has infected more than 34.2 million people worldwide, killed more than 1 million, and spread to at least 188 countries.
Several world leaders have also contracted the virus, including UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, as well as those close to them. And Trump had repeatedly come into contact with people who tested positive for the coronavirus.
In April, Business Insider spoke to experts about what happens if a world leader gets the virus
Experts say countries likely have contingency plans for when a leader catches a serious illness like COVID-19. Ann Keller, an associate professor of health politics and policy at the University of California at Berkeley, said that in a democracy there is usually a chain of command if a leader becomes incapacitated because of an illness.
"In stable democracies, if a head of state dies in office, there are clear patterns of transition so that there is no vacuum of leadership at the top," she told Business Insider.
In the US, for example, Pence is second in the chain of command after Trump, followed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. In Canada, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland would temporarily take over Trudeau's responsibilities if he were to become ill. Other pluralist democracies may choose another elected official to lead.
In the UK, foreign secretary Dominic Raab assumed duties while Johnson was in the hospital. Had Johnson become too ill to serve as prime minister, no immediate election would be called, though the opposition party could eventually pressure parliament into having one.
Still, some experts said that even if a chain of command were laid out, the unique nature of the new coronavirus might change how responsibilities are carried out.
"Often there's something on paper, but the implementation is up to people around the leader making difficult and sensitive judgments that could easily backfire," Eugene Bardach, a professor emeritus at the Goldman School of Public Policy at Berkeley, told Business Insider. "That is, providing the leader is merely incapacitated and doesn't drop dead, in which case the needed actions get triggered quickly if the death becomes known."
The chain of command is less transparent in nondemocratic societies, making it difficult to predict what would happen if a leader elsewhere in the world were to come down with the disease.
"In autocracies, a death signals a coup or civil war," Bardach said.