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Johnson in intensive care; Raab deputizes; support from Trump and Macron

Tuesday, April 7th 2020 - 07:50 UTC
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Johnson was admitted to St Thomas' Hospital in central London late on Sunday after suffering persistent coronavirus symptoms, including a high temperature Johnson was admitted to St Thomas' Hospital in central London late on Sunday after suffering persistent coronavirus symptoms, including a high temperature
“The PM has asked Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab ... to deputize for him where necessary,” said Downing Street “The PM has asked Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab ... to deputize for him where necessary,” said Downing Street

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was moved to an intensive care unit on Monday after his coronavirus symptoms worsened, although his Downing Street office said he was still conscious. Britain has no formal succession plan should the prime minister become incapacitated, but Johnson, 55, has asked Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to deputize for him.

Johnson was admitted to St Thomas' Hospital in central London late on Sunday after suffering persistent coronavirus symptoms, including a high temperature, for more than 10 days. He is the most high-profile world leader infected with the disease that has spread rapidly across the globe.

His condition rapidly deteriorated over the next 24 hours, and he was moved to an intensive care unit - where the most serious cases are treated. Although he had received oxygen, his office said he was still conscious.

“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,” said the Downing Street press release.

“The PM has asked Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab ... to deputize for him where necessary,” it added.

Downing Street said the move to intensive care was “a precaution should he require ventilation to aid his recovery”.

“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.

The British government has been criticized 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. The official death toll in the United Kingdom, which has more than 50,000 cases, currently stands at 5,373, and last week the health minister said the deadliest peak for deaths was projected to be Easter Sunday, Apr 12.

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. He plays tennis and while mayor of London used to cycle around the capital.

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”.

French President Emmanuel Macron said he hoped that Johnson would quickly overcome the “ordeal”.

“My full support to Boris Johnson, his family and the British people at this difficult time. I hope he will rapidly overcome this ordeal,” Macron tweeted.

Theresa May, Johnson's predecessor as prime minister, said: “My thoughts and prayers are with Boris Johnson and his family as he continues to receive treatment in hospital.”

Stand-in leader Raab, 46, said the British government would continue to make sure Johnson's plans for defeating the coronavirus outbreak were carried out while he receives treatment. “The government's business will continue,” Raab told reporters.

“The prime minister is in safe hands ... 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.”

Raab, the son of a Czech-born Jewish refugee who fled the Nazis in 1938, was brought up in the southern English region of Buckinghamshire and studied law at Oxford University before becoming a lawyer working on project finance, international litigation and competition law.

Asked at a news conference earlier on Monday whether he had been in touch with Johnson on Monday by either text or by telephone, Raab said he had last spoken to the prime minister on Saturday.

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