UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is still battling coronavirus in intensive care today with ‘no change’ in his condition overnight – amid a wave of support from across the nation.
Mr Johnson was moved to ICU at St Thomas’ Hospital in central London and given oxygen after his health deteriorated sharply over just two hours, leaving doctors fearing he will need a ventilator.
The 55-year-old was transferred to intensive care at 7pm because of breathing difficulties – forcing him to ‘deputise’ Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to take the reins of government.
In a round of broadcast interviews this morning, Cabinet minister Michael Gove said Mr Johnson was getting the ‘best care’.
‘As we speak the PM is in intensive care being looked after by his medical team receiving the very, very best care from the team in St Thomas’s and our hopes and prayers are with him and with his family,’ he told BBC Breakfast.
Mr Gove played down concerns that the government will be paralysed with the leader out of action.
‘The Cabinet is the supreme decision making body,’ he said
The Queen is being kept informed about Mr Johnson’s condition, while Mr Raab will chair a meeting of the government coronavirus task force this morning.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump revealed he has offered to send Mr Johnson experimental drugs to treat his coronavirus.
‘I’ve asked two of the leading companies … They’ve come with the solutions and just have done incredible jobs – and I’ve asked him to contact London immediately,’ Mr Trump said. ‘The London office has whatever they need. We’ll see if we can be of help. We’ve contacted all of Boris’s doctors, and we’ll see what is going to take place, but they are ready to go.’
The PM’s sharp downturn came 11 days after he first suffered coronavirus symptoms and went into isolation. He looked increasingly unwell when glimpsed in public and in ‘selfie’ videos posted on social media, and ministers were then shocked by his grim appearance at a Zoom conference on Sunday.
Downing Street sources confirmed Mr Johnson is not yet on a ventilator – but was moved to intensive care to be near one if needed. Some medical experts forecasting this course of action is now ‘very likely’.
Two thirds of patients in intensive care with coronavirus are sedated and put on a ventilator within 24 hours of arriving as the illness attacks their lungs.
But last night, one doctor told The Times Mr Johnson was conscious and had not been intubated – the process of putting a tube in the windpipe to aid breathing. He was said to have required around four litres of oxygen rather than the 15 litres used by an average Covid-19 ICU patient.
Only two hours before his move to intensive care, No10 was insisting Mr Johnson was still spearheading the government’s coronavirus response, despite de facto deputy Mr Raab chairing the morning crisis meeting.
Yet shortly after the Foreign Secretary left the Number 10 podium following the daily 5pm press briefing, Mr Johnson, 55, suffered breathing problem.
Sir Mark Sedwill, the cabinet secretary, held an emergency video conference with the cabinet to tell them the bad news, in a moment one minister described as ‘truly shocking’.
No10 has been urged to be more ‘transparent’ about the premier’s condition, amid claims a hospital bed was being prepared for him as early as last Thursday.
Speaking last night, Mr Raab vowed that ‘government business will continue’ and said there is a strong ‘team spirit’ rallying around the leader. He also reassured that the premier was ‘receiving excellent care’ and thanked the NHS staff who were treating him and other patients across Britain.
Mr Johnson’s handing of power to Mr Raab – the second most senior cabinet minister after the PM himself – came after days of insisting he remained in the driving seat of the UK’s fightback against the virus.
But on Sunday, the tenth day of isolation in his Number 11 flat, Mr Johnson’s declining health became clear to Cabinet colleagues during a 10am Zoom video conference call.
During the 45-minute meeting with ministers including Michael Gove, Rishi Sunak and Matt Hancock, insiders described the PM as pale and strained, while some detected breathlessness as he spoke.
A Number 10 spokeswoman said last night: ‘Since Sunday evening, the Prime Minister has been under the care of doctors at St Thomas’ Hospital, in London, after being admitted with persistent symptoms of coronavirus.
‘Over the course of this afternoon, the condition of the Prime Minister has worsened and, on the advice of his medical team, he has been moved to the Intensive Care Unit at the hospital.
‘The PM has asked Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who is the First Secretary of State, to deputise for him where necessary.
‘The PM is receiving excellent care, and thanks all NHS staff for their hard work and dedication.’
Downing Street has been accused of downplaying the seriousness of Mr Johnson’s illness.
When he was admitted to hospital on Sunday night, Number 10 made clear he was undergoing tests as a precaution on the advice of his doctor.
But a Tory source said: ‘No 10 tried to play this down but think it through: the Prime Minister was being taken to hospital in his car at 8pm on Sunday, the precise moment the Queen was making her broadcast to the nation. It therefore cannot have been completely routine.’
Insiders on the Sunday Zoom cabinet call also claimed it was clear Mr Johnson was not well.
A senior Whitehall source said: ‘His symptoms were persisting. He was plainly not getting any better. In fact he’d got worse.’
Determined to emulate the grit of his political hero Winston Churchill, insiders said Mr Johnson was reluctant to go to hospital.
A source said: ‘Do not underestimate the macho nature of the Westminster political Establishment. Boris will not have wanted to look weak.’
However, he eventually gave ground to his doctor and travelled to St Thomas’ with bodyguards on Sunday night.
It was the first time Mr Johnson was believed to have left Downing Street since Thursday, when he stood on the steps of Number 11 to applaud NHS workers at 8pm.
This was the last time the PM has been seen in public and came amid whisperings in Westminster that he was not as well as aides were claiming.
As early as Thursday, a bed was being prepared for Mr Johnson at St Thomas.
The next day, wearing an open collar shirt and looking exhausted, the PM used a Twitter video to reveal he had failed to shake off his high temperature and so would continue to self-isolate, while still keeping a firm hand on the tiller.
Mr Raab is now primed to take charge of the government’s coronavirus response and deputise for Mr Johnson ‘where necessary’, although it is understood he will not be a temporary PM.
At yesterday’s Downing Street press briefing, he confirmed a further 439 coronavirus deaths, taking the toll to 5,373, while the number of patients rose by 3,802 to 51,608.
Health experts tonight appeared unanimous in their view that the PM’s admission to intensive care means he is ‘extremely sick’.
But the four litres of oxygen which the Times reports were given to Mr Johnson is below the 15-litre threshold for typical intensive care patients, suggesting he is not as ill as most in ICUs.
World leaders and politicians around the globe rallied around Mr Johnson, who received well wishers from David Cameron, Emmanuel Macron and Donald Trump.
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has sent a tweet saying his thoughts and prayers are with Mr Johnson this morning.
He said: ‘To my dear friend @BorisJohnson , my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family, as you fight for a swift recovery. The people of Japan stand with the British people at this difficult time.’
The Queen has also been kept informed by Downing Street about Mr Johnson’s condition, Buckingham Palace said.
Mr Raab last night vowed to keep the machines of government firing on all cylinders while the PM recovered.
The one-time Tory leadership contender said: ‘The Prime Minister is in safe hands with that brilliant team at St Thomas’ hospital, and the focus of the Government will continue to be on making sure that the Prime Minister’s direction, all the plans for making sure that we can defeat coronavirus and can pull the country through this challenge, will be taken forward.’
He added: ‘There’s an incredibly strong team spirit behind the Prime Minister, and making sure that we get all of the plans the Prime Minister’s instructed us to deliver, to get them implemented as soon as possible.
‘And that’s the way it will bring the whole country through the coronavirus challenge that we face right now.’
Senior doctors branded the PM’s admission to intensive care a ‘huge concern’ and underscores how indiscriminate the virus is.
Dr Simon Clarke, a professor on cellular microbiology at Reading University, told Sky News: ‘The NHS particularly in this moment doesn’t give up intensive care beds just for people to be looked over. It doesn’t work that way even for PMs.
‘He wouldn’t be in intensive care unless he needed to be in intensive care. Especially not at this time.’
He added: ‘It is probably about time that the press people in No10 started levelling with us about what his condition really is.’
Downing Street sources confirmed Mr Johnson is not yet on a ventilator, although medical experts forecast this course of action is ‘very likely’.
Prof Derek Hill, Professor of Medical Imaging, University College London, said: ‘As often happens with COVID-19, his condition has now deteriorated so he has been admitted to intensive care where he is very likely to have been put on a mechanical ventilator to breath for him.’
He added: ‘One of the features of COVID-19 in all countries seems to be that many more men become seriously ill than women – especially in the over 40 age group.
‘Also we know that people under about 60 seem to have a higher chance of making a recovery from critical illness with COVID-19 than older people. But there is no doubt this turn of events means Boris Johnson is extremely sick.’
Mr Johnson’s pregnant fiancée Carrie Symonds, who is due in the early summer, is self-isolating in her own Camberwell apartment with the couple’s dog Dilyn after symptoms surfaced.
The 32-year-old said on Saturday: ‘I’ve spent the past week in bed with the main symptoms of Coronavirus. I haven’t needed to be tested and, after seven days of rest, I feel stronger and I’m on the mend.’
Politicians of all stripes rallied around Mr Johnson, including from ex-prime minister David Cameron and French President Emmanuel Macron.
Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: ‘My thoughts are with the PM and his family – sending him every good wish.’
Mr Johnson fell ill with the virus on the same day as Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who has since recovered.
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Alarm bells started ringing that the nerve centre of the government’s crisis response had been compromised when chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty and top Downing Street adviser Dominic Cummings also began showing symptoms.
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