World

UK PM in intensive care after coronavirus infection becomes worse

While he's under close watch, Foreign Secretary Raab leads Covid-19 fight

LONDON : British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was in intensive care yesterday after receiving oxygen support for serious Covid-19 complications, leaving his foreign minister Dominic Raab to lead the government's response to the accelerating outbreak.

Mr Johnson's personal battle with the virus has shaken the British government just as it enters what scientists say is likely to be one of the most deadly weeks of the pandemic, which has killed 5,373 people in Britain and 70,000 worldwide.

Mr Johnson, 55, was admitted to St Thomas' Hospital across the River Thames from the House of Commons late on Sunday after suffering persistent coronavirus symptoms for more than 10 days, including a high temperature and a cough. He tested positive on March 26.

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 on Monday he was still conscious and was moved to intensive care in case he needed to be put on a ventilator.

"He's not on a ventilator, no," Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove told LBC radio yesterday. "The prime minister has received some oxygen support and he is kept under, of course, close supervision."

"The prime minister is in intensive care, being looked after by his medical team, receiving the very, very best care from the team at St Thomas'," Mr Gove reiterated.

Mr Johnson is the first leader of a major power to be hospitalised for the new coronavirus.

While Britain has no formal succession plan should a prime minister become incapacitated, Mr Johnson had asked Foreign Secretary Raab to deputise for him "where necessary," Downing Street said.

Mr Raab entered Downing Street yesterday to chair the government's Covid-19 emergency response meeting.

IN GOOD SPIRITS

Earlier on Monday, Mr Johnson had said he was in good spirits and Mr Raab had told a news conference that the prime minister was still running the government, although Mr Raab also said he had not spoken to him directly since Saturday. Mr Raab takes the helm at a pivotal time.

The official death toll in Britain currently stands at 5,373, and last week the health minister said the deadliest peak for deaths was projected to be Easter Sunday, April 12.

Britain is in a state of virtual lockdown, a situation due to be reviewed early next week, and some ministers have suggested it might need to be extended because people were flouting the strict rules.

Mr Johnson's move to intensive care added to the sense of upheaval that the coronavirus crisis has wrought after its spread caused widespread panic, sowed chaos through financial markets and prompted the virtual shutdown of the global economy.

"The government's business will continue," a sombre Mr Raab, 46, told reporters.

"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."

There have also been calls for ministers to detail what the exit plans were from the shutdown, which has hammered the world's fifth-biggest economy. - REUTERS

WORLD