UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson Moved to Intensive Care w/ Coronavirus

‘The government’s business will continue…’

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Boris Johnson chairs the morning Covid-19 Meeting remotely after self isolating after testing positive for the coronavirus. PHOTO: Andrew Parsons/10 Downing Street via AP File

(Associated Press) British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was moved to the intensive care unit of a London hospital after his coronavirus symptoms dramatically worsened Monday, just a day after he was admitted for what were said to be routine tests.

Johnson was admitted to St. Thomas’ Hospital late Sunday, 10 days after he was diagnosed with COVID-19, the first major world leader to be confirmed to have the virus.

The 55-year-old Conservative was conscious and did not require ventilation, but he was moved into intensive care in case he needs it later, his office said in a statement.

Britain has no official post of deputy prime minister, but Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has been designated to take over should Johnson become incapacitated.

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A grave-looking Raab said Johnson was “in safe hands” at the hospital, which is treating many virus patients.

“The government’s business will continue,” Raab said. He said Johnson had asked him “to deputize for him where needed in driving forward the government’s plans to defeat coronavirus.”

The deterioration of Johnson’s health took many in Britain by surprise. Hours earlier, he had tweeted that he was in good spirits and thanked the National Health Service for taking care of him and others with the disease.

“On the advice of my doctor, I went into hospital for some routine tests as I’m still experiencing coronavirus symptoms,” Johnson said in the tweet. He said he was keeping in touch with his team “as we work together to fight this virus and keep everyone safe.”

The prime minister’s spokesman said earlier Monday that Johnson had spent a comfortable night and remained in charge of government after being admitted to the hospital because his cough and fever persisted.

Speaking earlier at the government’s daily coronavirus press briefing, Raab said Johnson was being “regularly updated,” but said he had not spoken to him since Saturday.

Johnson had been quarantined in his Downing Street residence since being diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 26. He continued to preside at daily meetings on the outbreak until Sunday. He released several video messages during his 10 days in isolation urging Britons to stay home and observe social distancing measures to help slow the spread of the virus.

News that Johnson had been transferred to intensive care drew an outpouring of support from around the world.

U.S. President Donald Trump said “Americans are all praying for his recovery.”

“He’s been a really good friend,” Trump said during a White House press briefing. “He’s been really something very special — strong, resolute, doesn’t quit, doesn’t give up.”

Trump said he asked two “leading companies” to contact officials in London about therapeutics that could be of help. He did not identify the companies, but said “we have contacted all of Boris’s doctors, and we’ll see what’s going to take place, but they are ready to go.”

Derek Hill, a professor of medical imaging science at University College London, said it seemed that the prime minister needs help breathing, although he had no particular information on Johnson’s case.

There are multiple ways for doctors to support a patient’s breathing, he said, including having oxygen on demand or being connected to a ventilator.

“It is quite common for people with COVID-19 to decline quite rapidly, and they may need to progress to invasive ventilators,’’ Hill said in statement.

Dr. James Gill, a family doctor and lecturer at Warwick Medical School, said Johnson’s condition “must underscore for everyone, across the world, how indiscriminate this virus is, ignoring, class, character, wealth and position.”

“For some people, the coronavirus outbreak just became real,” he said.