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WORLD | 06-04-2020 16:28

British PM Boris Johnson taken to intensive care, confirms Downing Street

Conservative leader, who admitted he had the Covid-19 coronavirus on March 27, admitted to intensive care after condition worsens. He is believed to be conscious and has been moved as a precautionary step.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is suffering from the Covid-19 coronavirus, has been admitted to intensive care at St Thomas' Hospital in London.

Downing Street confirmed the shocking news in a statement. The British PM was admitted less than two hours ago, officials said, after his condition worsened on Monday.

"He is understood to be conscious and moved as a precaution," The Guardian newspaper reported.

It is understood Johnson was moved to the intensive care unit just short of an hour and a half ago.

A spokesman for the government said that he was receiving "excellent care."

"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," a Downing Street official said in a statement. 

"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," it concluded.

Johnson announced on March 27 that he had tested positive for Covid-19, becoming the most high-profile world leader infected with the disease that has spread rapidly across the globe. The 55-year-old had been self-isolating in his Downing Street flat but on Sunday evening, still suffering a high temperature and a cough, he was driven to a nearby state-run hospital on the advice of his doctor.

Officials said it was a "precautionary step."

Raab, who chaired Monday's coronavirus meeting in his absence, told the daily media briefing that Johnson was still "in charge", but that he had not spoken to him for two days.

"He's in charge but he'll continue to take doctors' advice on what to do next and we have a team which... is full-throttle making sure that his directions and his instructions are being implemented," said Raab.

The British government was criticised for initially refusing to follow other European countries in requiring people to stay home as the virus spread.

And Johnson himself said in early March that he was still shaking hands with people.

But two weeks ago he ordered a nationwide lockdown and Britain is now in the grip of a serious outbreak. 

Over 50,000 cases and more than 5,000 deaths have been recorded so far, with a latest daily toll of 439.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock and the heir to the throne, Prince Charles, have both been infected with coronavirus, although they have since recovered.

In response to the crisis, Queen Elizabeth II made a rare public address on Sunday night, evoking the spirit of World War II and urging Britons to stay united.

"We will be with our friends again, we will be with our families again, we will meet again," she said.

Johnson is not known to have any underlying health issues, although he has struggled with his weight, but some questioned if he should have taken more time off.

Junior health minister Nadine Dorries, who also had coronavirus but has recovered, added: "Many with #COVID19 are felled by fatigue/temperature and use isolation to sleep and recover. 

"Boris has risked his health and worked every day on our behalf to lead the battle against this vile virus."

Sarah Vine, a newspaper columnist and wife of senior Cabinet minister Michael Gove, added: "Boris has worked non-stop throughout his illness – and now we see the result."

US President Donald Trump said he was "hopeful and sure" Johnson would recover, calling the prime minister "a friend of mine" and a "great leader".

Johnson's pregnant partner, Carrie Symonds, moved out of Downing Street after some staff fell ill. But she said on Saturday she had just spent a week in bed with symptoms, although she has not been tested.

Johnson's spokesman would not confirm a report in The Times newspaper reported that the prime minister had been given oxygen treatment. 

"Doctors will be monitoring important vital signs such as oxygen saturations," said Rupert Beale, group leader at the cell biology of infection laboratory at the Francis Crick Institute.

He said they would also check Johnson's blood to "see what the immune response to the virus looks like, and to assess liver and kidney function", and may also perform an electrocardiogram to check the heart.

– TIMES/AFP

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