Boris Johnson moved to intensive care as condition worsens
Boris Johnson was moved into an intensive care unit on Monday night after his infection with coronavirus worsened, his initial “mild symptoms” having rapidly deteriorated into a serious medical situation.
Mr Johnson was transferred at 7pm on Monday night as a precaution in case he should need ventilation, with officials saying that the prime minister remained conscious for the time being.
After a day in which Downing Street insisted that Mr Johnson was “in charge” of the government and running its policy response to coronavirus, the development sent shudders through the government.
Downing Street said in a statement on Monday evening: “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 the afternoon the condition of the prime minister has worsened and, on the advice of the medical team, he has been moved to the intensive care unit of the hospital.”
Earlier, Mr Johnson had tweeted that he was “in good spirits” but during the course of Monday the mood in Downing Street darkened.
Dominic Raab, the first secretary of state and Mr Johnson’s deputy, said the prime minister was directing operations but tellingly revealed: “I spoke to the PM on Saturday — that was the last time I spoke to him in person.”
As the day progressed, Downing Street’s attempts to claim that Mr Johnson was running the government as normal, including taking decisions on papers contained in his official red box, started to falter.
The prime minister’s allies admitted that Mr Johnson had been on lighter duties in the days leading up to his admission to hospital on Sunday. Now, there are serious concerns for the prime minister’s wellbeing.
Mr Johnson had been suffering from what Number 10 insisted were “mild symptoms” of coronavirus — a cough and a temperature — for nine days before his doctors advised him to go to hospital on Sunday night.
Downing Street said Mr Raab would “deputise where necessary” for Mr Johnson. Big decisions loom for the government as the virus reaches its peak in Britain and hospitals start to feel the strain.
Ministers are also grappling with how and when they can start relaxing the lockdown, although they insist that their priority for now is driving down the number of infections and deaths from the virus.
Mr Raab later dispensed with the notion that Mr Johnson was still in daily charge of government, saying that ministers were “making sure that we deliver all of the plans the prime minister wanted us to deliver as soon as possible”.
Mr Johnson’s allies said the prime minister “remains conscious at this time” and that his move to the ICU was a “precaution” in case he should need ventilation.
The NHS website explains that intensive care units are for those who are “seriously ill” or recovering from surgery. It adds: “Most people in an ICU have problems with one or more organs. For example, they may be unable to breathe on their own.”
One of the prime minister’s tasks before he became ill was to build up the country’s stock of ventilators as the emergency developed. Initially, the NHS had 8,000 machines but new ones are coming on stream.
Other ministers have expressed concern in recent days that Mr Johnson has not been taking sufficient rest to overcome the virus and on Monday night there were widespread messages of goodwill to the prime minister.
“Terribly sad news,” tweeted Keir Starmer, the new Labour leader. “All the country’s thoughts are with the prime minister and his family during this incredibly difficult time.”
Sir Lindsay Hoyle, Speaker of the House of Commons, said: “This is terrible news. I know the thoughts and prayers of everyone across the House are with the Prime Minister and his family right now.”