POLITICS
04/07/2020 10:32 EDT | Updated 04/07/2020 13:03 EDT

Boris Johnson Awake, Breathing Without Ventilator: U.K. Officials

The British PM is said to be in "good spirits" in intensive care.

Kate Green via Getty Images
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is seen here leaving his official residence on London's Downing Street on Dec. 13, 2019. Johnson has tested positive for COVID-19, but No. 10 says he has not been diagnosed with pneumonia as of Tuesday.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is breathing without a ventilator and is in “good spirits” while being treated in intensive care for novel coronavirus symptoms, Downing Street has said.

He was transferred to the intensive care unit at St Thomas’ Hospital in London on Monday evening as his condition worsened. Johnson was admitted to hospital on Sunday evening.

“The prime minister has been stable overnight and remains in good spirits. He is receiving standard oxygen treatment and is breathing without any other treatment,” Johnson’s official spokesperson said on Tuesday afternoon.

“He has not required mechanical ventilation or non-invasive respiratory support.”

He’s not just our boss – he’s also a colleague and he’s also our friend.Dominic Raab, U.K. foreign secretary

No. 10 said Johnson has not been diagnosed with pneumonia, which affects some COVID-19 patients, but has been moved to intensive care “as a precautionary step in the event that he were to need ventilation.”

The spokesman refused to say whether the prime minister was able to sit up and talk or use his phone to communicate with officials or his pregnant fiancée, Carrie Symonds.

Dominic Raab, the U.K. foreign secretary and first secretary of state, is currently standing in for the prime minister. Raab said he was “confident” Johnson would pull through and be back at the helm soon.  

“He’s not just our boss – he’s also a colleague and he’s also our friend,” Raab said at a Tuesday briefing. “And I’m confident he will pull through because if there is one thing that I know about this prime minister is he is a fighter and he will be back leading us through this crisis in short order.”

The prime minister was diagnosed with the disease some 11 days ago. 

Raab went on to reassure the British public that work was continuing on tackling COVID-19 in the prime minister’s absence.

“For us in cabinet, we know exactly what he wants from us and expects from us right now,” Raab said. 

Johnson has sent Raab a message saying he wanted him to assume some of the prime minister’s responsibilities “where appropriate.” They last spoke on Saturday.

Downing Street confirmed that if Raab is also incapacitated, chancellor Rishi Sunak would step into the role at the top of government, according to the “established order of precedent.” 

The pressure on the government was underlined on Tuesday morning when it emerged that Michael Gove – one of the senior ministers leading the government’s response to the crisis – had been forced to self-isolate after a family member displayed symptoms of the novel coronavirus.

PA
Dominic Raab, the U.K. foreign secretary who is taking charge of the government's response to the novel coronavirus crisis after Boris Johnson was admitted to intensive care Monday, is seen here in London.

Johnson’s top aide, Dominic Cummings, also went into self isolation last week  and has not returned to Downing Street since, the spokesman said.

Raab is continuing to work from the U.K. Foreign Office and is being supported by other officials. He will chair the national security council if required while the prime minister is in hospital and has the responsibility, along with the rest of the cabinet, to authorize actions to protect the U.K.

Downing Street said at the time that the move was a “precautionary step” as his symptoms of a cough and high temperature were continuing to persist after 10 days in self-isolation.

Initially, he was said to have been continuing to work from his hospital bed and was receiving his ministerial red boxes.

But by 7 p.m. local time on Monday, the decision was made to transfer him to intensive care so that a ventilator was nearby if required.

 

The cabinet was informed shortly afterwards and the move was made public in an announcement by Downing Street shortly after 8 p.m.

On Tuesday morning, Gove said Johnson was receiving the “very, very best care” and insisted that the government machine is continuing to function.

The prime minister has also received good wishes from world leaders.

But Downing Street appeared to snub U.S. President Donald Trump’s offer to approach U.S. pharmaceutical companies to ask them to offer the prime minister experimental drugs to treat the novel coronavirus.

“We are grateful for all the warm wishes the prime minister has received overnight, we are confident that the prime minister is receiving the best possible care from the National Health Service,” a No. 10 spokesman said.

“Any treatment which he receives is a matter for his doctors.”

With files from Rachel Wearmouth

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