John Cleese: I think I caught coronavirus in March

John Cleese has said he believes he contracted coronavirus in March, describing it as “like the worst case of flu I’ve ever had”.

The Fawlty Towers star, 81, recorded a video to encourage residents in Basildon, Essex, to abide by restrictions.

The area’s rate of new Covid-19 cases was the third highest in England for the seven days to December 7.

He said: “I think I had it in March. It was like having the worst case of flu I have ever had. It lasted about seven days. I didn’t have trouble breathing. It hasn’t affected my breathing but it very easily can and you never know if it is going to be mild or nasty.”

The comedian and actor acknowledged the restrictions are “a bore”, but added: “We’re talking about your lives here,” as he outlined “handwashing, distances, masks” as measures Basildon residents should be taking.

“Too many people in Basildon are getting this and it’s not good,” he added.

Cleese said he had received an “unusual request” for the video to revive the character of Torquay hotelier Basil Fawlty from his 1970s BBC comedy.

The three-minute clip saw him briefly dip into the character of “Basildon Fawlty”, but the comic mostly spoke in his own voice.

Footage of his message was posted on Facebook by Essex Coronavirus Action, a collaboration between Essex County Council, the Essex public health team and local Facebook group owners, which aims to spread public health messages during the pandemic.