(DAILY MAIL UK) – Boris Johnson is ‘breathing without assistance’ in intensive care and does not have pneumonia, Downing Street said today.
The PM’s spokesman said he was ‘stable overnight and remains in good spirits’, having received ‘standard oxygen treatment’.
Mr Johnson has also not needed a mechanical ventilator despite mounting concerns over his health.
The more positive news came after Michael Gove said the premier’s plight is ‘truly frightening’ and ministers are ‘praying’ for his swift recovery. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has been ‘deputised’ to take charge while he is out of action..
But there are growing concerns about the effectiveness of the government machine with the incumbent of No10 unable to lead the crisis response.
Mr Johnson was moved to ICU at St Thomas’ Hospital in central London and given oxygen last night after his health deteriorated sharply over just two hours, leaving doctors fearing he will end up needing a ventilator.
But the 55-year-old’s spokesman said today: ‘The Prime Minister has been stable overnight and remains in good spirits.
‘He is receiving standard oxygen treatment and breathing without any other assistance. He has not required mechanical ventilation or non-invasive respiratory support.’
In a round of broadcast interviews this morning, Cabinet Office minister Mr Gove said Mr Johnson’s plight should demonstrate the need to follow social distancing rules, as the virus ‘has a malevolence that is truly frightening’.
Mr Gove played down concerns that the government will be paralysed with the leader out of action, insisting that Mr Johnson had already been on a ‘stripped back diary’ for days and ‘Cabinet is the supreme decision making body’,
However, within hours it had emerged that Mr Gove himself had also been impacted by coronavirus, as he has gone into self-isolation following a family member displaying symptoms.
Mr Gove also dodged questions about whether Mr Raab has been given crucial national security responsibilities such as control of the nuclear deterrent and military.
New Prime Ministers usually write ‘letters of last resort’ to nuclear submarine captains, setting out instructions if government is wiped out by an enemy strike. However, it is not clear whether Mr Johnson’s letters will still apply, or Mr Raab will pen new versions.
MPs have raised alarm that hostile states such as Russia – which has already been accused of spreading disinformation about Mr Johnson’s condition – could try to exploit Britain’s ‘weakness’.
General Sir Nick Carter, chief of the defence staff, said the armed forces ‘work straight through to the Prime Minister’, although he suggested the National Security Council (NSC) will now fill the gap.
The Queen is being kept informed about Mr Johnson’s condition. The monarch appoints the PM, choosing the individual who is best placed to carry a majority in the Commons.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump revealed he has offered to send Mr Johnson experimental drugs to treat his coronavirus.
‘I’ve asked two of the leading companies … They’ve come with the solutions and just have done incredible jobs – and I’ve asked him to contact London immediately,’ Mr Trump said. ‘The London office has whatever they need. We’ll see if we can be of help. We’ve contacted all of Boris’s doctors, and we’ll see what is going to take place, but they are ready to go.’
The PM’s sharp downturn came 11 days after he first suffered coronavirus symptoms and went into isolation. He looked increasingly unwell when glimpsed in public and in ‘selfie’ videos posted on on social media, and ministers were then shocked by his grim appearance at a Zoom conference on Sunday.
Downing Street sources confirmed Mr Johnson is not yet on a ventilator – but was moved to intensive care to be near one if needed. Some medical experts forecasting this course of action is now ‘very likely’.
Two thirds of patients in intensive care with coronavirus are sedated and put on a ventilator within 24 hours of arriving as the illness attacks their lungs.
As the Prime Minister was treated in hospital:
-Aides to Mr Gove said he was following the official guidance by going into quarantine for 14 days, but was not himself feeling ill and would continue working;
-The Queen has issued a message to NHS workers praising their ‘selfless coommitment and diligence’ as she marked World Health Day amid the coronavirus crisis;
-A further 439 UK coronavirus deaths were announced yesterday, taking the toll to 5,373, while the number of patients rose by 3,802 to 51,608;
-World leaders and politicians around the globe rallied around Mr Johnson, who received well wishers from David Cameron, Emmanuel Macron and Donald Trump;
-Health experts have warned that the PM’s admission to intensive care means he is ‘extremely sick’ and he is ‘likely’ to need a ventilator;
Only two hours before his move to intensive care, No10 was insisting Mr Johnson was still spearheading the government’s coronavirus response, despite de facto deputy Mr Raab chairing the morning crisis meeting.
Yet shortly after the Foreign Secretary left the Number 10 podium following the daily 5pm press briefing, Mr Johnson, 55, suffered breathing problem.
Sir Mark Sedwill, the cabinet secretary, held an emergency video conference with the cabinet to tell them the bad news, in a moment one minister described as ‘truly shocking’.
No10 has been urged to be more ‘transparent’ about the premier’s condition, amid claims a hospital bed was being prepared for him as early as last Thursday.
Mr Gove said today: ‘If there is any change in his condition we will ensure the country is updated.’
Mr Johnson was conscious last night and had not been intubated – the process of putting a tube in the windpipe to aid breathing.
He required around four litres of oxygen rather than the 15 litres used by an average Covid-19 ICU patient, according to the Times.
Speaking last night, Mr Raab vowed that ‘government business will continue’ and said there is a strong ‘team spirit’ rallying around the leader. He also reassured that the premier was ‘receiving excellent care’ and thanked the NHS staff who were treating him and other patients across Britain.
Mr Johnson’s handing of power to Mr Raab – the second most senior cabinet minister after the PM himself – came after days of insisting he remained in the driving seat of the UK’s fightback against the virus.
But on Sunday, the tenth day of isolation in his Number 11 flat, Mr Johnson’s declining health became clear to Cabinet colleagues during a 10am Zoom video conference call.
During the 45-minute meeting with ministers including Michael Gove, Rishi Sunak and Matt Hancock, insiders described the PM as pale and strained, while some detected breathlessness as he spoke.
A Number 10 spokeswoman said last night: ‘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.
‘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.’
Downing Street has been accused of downplaying the seriousness of Mr Johnson’s illness.
When he was admitted to hospital on Sunday night, Number 10 made clear he was undergoing tests as a precaution on the advice of his doctor.
But a Tory source said: ‘No 10 tried to play this down but think it through: the Prime Minister was being taken to hospital in his car at 8pm on Sunday, the precise moment the Queen was making her broadcast to the nation. It therefore cannot have been completely routine.’
Insiders on the Sunday Zoom cabinet call also claimed it was clear Mr Johnson was not well.
A senior Whitehall source said: ‘His symptoms were persisting. He was plainly not getting any better. In fact he’d got worse.’
Determined to emulate the grit of his political hero Winston Churchill, insiders said Mr Johnson was reluctant to go to hospital.
A source said: ‘Do not underestimate the macho nature of the Westminster political Establishment. Boris will not have wanted to look weak.’
However, he eventually gave ground to his doctor and travelled to St Thomas’ with bodyguards on Sunday night.
It was the first time Mr Johnson was believed to have left Downing Street since Thursday, when he stood on the steps of Number 11 to applaud NHS workers at 8pm.
This was the last time the PM has been seen in public and came amid whisperings in Westminster that he was not as well as aides were claiming.
As early as Thursday, a bed was being prepared for Mr Johnson at St Thomas’, a source told the Guardian.
The next day, wearing an open collar shirt and looking exhausted, the PM used a Twitter video to reveal he had failed to shake off his high temperature and so would continue to self-isolate, while still keeping a firm hand on the tiller.
Mr Raab is now primed to take charge of the government’s coronavirus response and deputise for Mr Johnson ‘where necessary’, although it is understood he will not be a temporary PM.
At yesterday’s Downing Street press briefing, he confirmed a further 439 coronavirus deaths, taking the toll to 5,373, while the number of patients rose by 3,802 to 51,608.
Health experts tonight appeared unanimous in their view that the PM’s admission to intensive care means he is ‘extremely sick’.
But the four litres of oxygen which the Times reports were given to Mr Johnson is below the 15-litre threshold for typical intensive care patients, suggesting he is not as ill as most in ICUs.
World leaders and politicians around the globe rallied around Mr Johnson, who received well wishers from David Cameron, Emmanuel Macron and Donald Trump.
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has sent a tweet saying his thoughts and prayers are with Mr Johnson this morning.
He said: ‘To my dear friend @BorisJohnson , my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family, as you fight for a swift recovery. The people of Japan stand with the British people at this difficult time.’
The Queen has also been kept informed by Downing Street about Mr Johnson’s condition, Buckingham Palace said.
Mr Raab last night vowed to keep the machines of government firing on all cylinders while the PM recovered.
The one-time Tory leadership contender said: ‘The Prime Minister is in safe hands with that brilliant team at St Thomas’ hospital, 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.’
He added: ‘There’s an incredibly strong team spirit behind the Prime Minister, and making sure that we get all of the plans the Prime Minister’s instructed us to deliver, to get them implemented as soon as possible.
‘And that’s the way it will bring the whole country through the coronavirus challenge that we face right now.’
Senior doctors branded the PM’s admission to intensive care a ‘huge concern’ and underscores how indiscriminate the virus is.
Dr Simon Clarke, a professor on cellular microbiology at Reading University, told Sky News: ‘The NHS particularly in this moment doesn’t give up intensive care beds just for people to be looked over. It doesn’t work that way even for PMs.
‘He wouldn’t be in intensive care unless he needed to be in intensive care. Especially not at this time.’
He added: ‘It is probably about time that the press people in No10 started levelling with us about what his condition really is.’
Downing Street sources confirmed Mr Johnson is not yet on a ventilator, although medical experts forecast this course of action is ‘very likely’.
Prof Derek Hill, Professor of Medical Imaging, University College London, said: ‘As often happens with COVID-19, his condition has now deteriorated so he has been admitted to intensive care where he is very likely to have been put on a mechanical ventilator to breath for him.’
He added: ‘One of the features of COVID-19 in all countries seems to be that many more men become seriously ill than women – especially in the over 40 age group.
‘Also we know that people under about 60 seem to have a higher chance of making a recovery from critical illness with COVID-19 than older people. But there is no doubt this turn of events means Boris Johnson is extremely sick.’
Mr Johnson’s pregnant fiancée Carrie Symonds, who is due in the early summer, is self-isolating in her own Camberwell apartment with the couple’s dog Dilyn after symptoms surfaced.
The 32-year-old said on Saturday: ‘I’ve spent the past week in bed with the main symptoms of Coronavirus. I haven’t needed to be tested and, after seven days of rest, I feel stronger and I’m on the mend.’
Politicians of all stripes rallied around Mr Johnson, including from ex-prime minister David Cameron and French President Emmanuel Macron.
Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: ‘My thoughts are with the PM and his family – sending him every good wish.’
Business minister Nadim Zahawi tweeted: ‘Thoughts & prayers for Boris Johnson & Carrie Symonds and their family.
‘I have known Boris for 20 years he is a fighter and will beat this virus.’
Chancellor Rishi Sunak tweeted: ‘My thoughts tonight are with Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds. I know he’ll be getting the best care possible and will come out of this even stronger.’
Members of the newly-formed shadow cabinet offered their support for the PM.
Shadow justice secretary David Lammy tweeted: ‘Awful news. My very best wishes to the Prime Minister, as well as his partner Carrie, family and friends. Get well soon Boris Johnson.’
Mr Johnson fell ill with the virus on the same day as Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who has since recovered.
Alarm bells started ringing that the nerve centre of the government’s crisis response had been compromised when chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty and top Downing Street adviser Dominic Cummings also began showing symptoms. Meetings have since taken place via videolink.