Boris Johnson is ‘improving’ in hospital after two days in intensive care battling coronavirus, Chancellor Rishi Sunak revealed this afternoon.
In news that will come as a relief to the nation he said that the Prime Minister had also been sitting up in bed after two nights in St Thomas’s Hospital in London.
Fronting the daily news conference, Mr Sunak began by giving an update on Mr Johnson’s condition, amid questions over his treatment in the lead up to his hospitalisation.
‘The latest news from the hospital is that the prime minister remains in intensive care, where his condition is improving,’ Mr Sunak said,.
‘I can also tell you that he has been sitting up in bed and engaging positively with the clinical team.’
Health Secretary Matt Hancock tweeted: ‘So good that the PM is sitting up and his condition is improving. He will fight through!’
In news that will come as a relief to the nation Chancellor Rishi Sunak said that the Prime Minister had also been sitting up in bed after two nights in St Thomas’s Hospital in London
A woman sticks a poster of a rainbow, being used as a symbol of hope during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the words ‘we are in this together’ into a window at 10 Downing Street today
No10 tonight confirmed that Mr Johnson ‘continues to make steady progress’ but remains in intensive care.
Downing Street had earlier confirmed that the PM has not been doing any work, although they said he has been in contact with aides.
There are fears that even the best outcome from his coronavirus struggle will see him out of action for weeks, with experts warning he could need a ‘phased return’ to work.
There are also questions about the PM’s care while he was in isolation, amid suggestions he was not physically monitored and only consulted a doctor by video link.
There are claims that social distancing rules were being flouted in Downing Street as the crisis developed, with meetings in cramped rooms and people coughing freely. Epidemiologist Neil Ferguson was among the first frequent visitor to become infected.
Tory MPs are calling for a review of the premier’s medical arrangements, saying the lack of protection has been ‘exposed’ by the latest crisis.
The UK leader has starkly different health support than in the US, where the president has a dedicated medical team and emergency facilities constantly on standby.
Mr Sunak said the care received by Mr Johnson had been ‘excellent’.
Paramedics were at work at the temporary NHS Nightingale hospital at the ExCel centre in London today
Boris Johnson’s fever is said to have dipped in a positive sign as he remains under constant observation at St Thomas’ hospital (pictured today) in central London
He said: ‘I think the Prime Minister has received excellent care and advice every step of the process.
‘At the end of the day, we’re all trying our absolute best, none of us are superhuman and impervious to getting sick during this process and that’s what makes this whole thing so awful for all of us.
‘But as I’ve observed and seen, the advice, the care has been excellent, not just beforehand but especially now at St Thomas’.’
Prof Stephen Powis, the NHS England medical director, added: ‘I’m absolutely confident the Prime Minister has and is receiving excellent medical care.
‘I’m not his physician, he will have been advised by his own doctors, but I do know colleagues at St Thomas’ Hospital, in fact a couple of weeks ago I took the opportunity to visit St Thomas’ Hospital, visit some of the critical care consultants, and I can’t tell you how impressed I was.’
A cleaning van in Downing Street today as the PM remains in hospital nearby
Images show the Prime Minister’s changing appearance as his battle with coronavirus continued from (top row left to right) March 27 and 28 and (bottom row left to right) April 1 and 2
Churchill had personal doctor who travelled with him in WW2
Winston Churchill had a personal doctor who travelled with him during the Second World war as he struggled with health issues behind the scenes.
The PM suffered a mild heart attack while at the White House in Washington in 1941, just a year after taking over in No10, and contracted pneumonia two years later.
In 1949, while opposition leader, he suffered a stroke on holiday, which affected his health to the extent that the King gently suggested he resign as PM in 1951 in favour of Anthony Eden.
Churchill suffered a second one during an official dinner at No 10 while in office in 1953, leaving him paralysed on one side.
His aides and family conspired to keep news of his illness out of the press, at a time when the Cold War was very chilly and there were fears he may not survive.
Eden’s own illness meant that Churchill did not quit until 1955. He suffered a third stroke the following year and died in 1965.
Conservative PM Marcus Fysh told MailOnline the situation was party an historical anomaly due to the different political systems.
‘We’ve got a constitutional monarchy so the monarch is the head of states and has all of that. In America the President is head of state, so that is probably why it has come through in this way. But it is worth considering whether there should in future be special measures for health within the No10 operation.
‘I had the privilege of visiting the White House a couple of years ago… all his food is cooked by the US Navy.
‘He has got a special water system that is protected and separate from the rest of the public system. It is very well organised.
‘They are prepared for every eventuality there in a way I guess has been exposed that we need to think about a bit more.’
‘It is worth keeping these things under review because we need to protect our decision makers.’
Mr Fysh said he believed the PM would ‘bounce back’ and was now ‘in very good hands’ at St Thomas’. These are teams that are at the top of their game,’ he said.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has been ‘deputised’ to fill in for the PM, but the potential issues caused by Mr Johnson’s absence have been underlined as the crucial review of lockdown measures was postponed.
Health minister Edward Argar confirmed this morning that consideration of whether the draconian measures should still apply was being postponed. Pressed on when the review will happen, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘When the scientific advice is such that we appear to have gone over the peak and it is safe to do so.’
Meanwhile, there are tight limits on Mr Raab’s control of government, as he cannot hire or fire ministers and will not have audiences with the Queen, although No10 insists the UK’s military response and nuclear deterrent have not been compromised.
Downing Street is expected to give a formal update on the premier’s condition later, after saying last night the he is ‘stable’.
Patients who rush back to work risk relapse, warn experts
Coronavirus patients who rush back to work could find themselves so exhausted they need to take further time off, a respiratory consultant has said.
Dr Jon Bennett, respiratory consultant at Glenfield Hospital in Leicester and chairman of the British Thoracic Society, said it can take several weeks to recover from coronavirus even after the major symptoms disappear.
The medic, who has treated around 60 to 70 patients with Covid-19, told the PA news agency that many factors affect recovery, including a patient’s age, underlying health conditions and the severity of their illness.
Dr Bennett is himself still recovering from coronavirus, after suffering sleepless nights with muscle pain, a headache and mild cough.
He said many patients needing oxygen for Covid-19 had evidence of pneumonia, which can have long-lasting effects.
‘With pneumonia, the bug comes, the body fights off the virus and (that) may last a few days, but the lungs get filled up with shall we say bruising and it can take several weeks for the lungs to sort that out.
‘For some people, the symptoms can take several weeks to settle.
‘People suffer fatigue and lethargy and it can take six weeks to recover from it.
‘For some that have been to critical care, it can take longer and they may have permanent damage to their lungs.’
Duncan Young, professor of intensive care medicine at the University of Oxford, said UK evidence suggests the commonest stay on an intensive care unit (ICU) for patients who survive Covid-19 is four days, but a quarter stay for eight or more days.
‘In general the time in hospital depends on what co-morbidities a patient has, what the acute illness is that required ICU treatment, and the duration and intensity of ICU treatment.’
According to the Times, his ‘persistent’ temperature has finally dropped while he has been in hospital.
At the daily Downing Street press briefing last night, Mr Raab said he is ‘confident’ the PM will pull through after a worsening of his coronavirus symptoms.
Mr Raab stressed that they could not consider easing the lockdown restrictions until it was clear the peak of the epidemic had passed and it could be ‘responsibly done’.
Downing Street confirmed the review would take place after the three-week mark originally committed to.
But the emergency legislation laid before Parliament three days after the PM’s announcement states that a review must take place every 21 days, with the first deadline being April 16.
The news came despite cautious optimism from chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance that the fight against Covid-19 ‘could be moving in the right direction’.
Sir Patrick said there were signs that the rates of new infections and new hospital admissions for Covid-19 were ‘flattening off’.
But he added it would be another ‘week or so’ before they could be sure, indicating lockdown measures would not be eased before then.
President Donald Trump claimed overnight that the UK was ‘desperate’ for ventilators and had called the US with an urgent plea for 200 to treat the sickest patients.
‘We’re going to work it out, we’ve got to work it out,’ he said. ‘They’ve been great partners. They wanted 200, they need them desperately.’
Professor Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, finally admitted yesterday that the UK needed to learn from the example of Germany where the number of deaths appeared to be growing more slowly.
‘We all know that Germany got ahead in terms of its ability to do testing for the virus and there’s a lot to learn from that and we’ve been trying to learn the lessons from that,’ he said.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab (pictured in Whitehall today) has been ‘deputised’ to fill in for the PM, and chaired the government’s daily coronavirus meeting this morning
Chris Whitty and Matt Hancock were in Downing Street for the daily crisis meeting today
Epidemiologist Neil Ferguson was among the first frequent visitors to Downing Street to become infected
Updating the nation on the PM’s condition, Mr Raab said he remained stable and had not required a ventilator but had received ‘standard oxygen treatment’ while breathing without assistance.
‘I’m confident he’ll pull through because if there’s one thing I know about this Prime Minister, he’s a fighter and he’ll be back at the helm leading us through this crisis in short order,’ he said.
He said that ministers would not ‘blink or flinch’ from following the instructions Mr Johnson had set out before he was admitted to hospital.
But he appeared reluctant to say whether he would be prepared to take a decision to break with the PM’s strategy while he was still in hospital if he believed a change of direction was necessary.
‘He’s asked me to deputise for him for as long as is necessary, but the normal Cabinet collective responsibility and principles that inform that will apply,’ he said.
The latest official figures from the Department of Health showed that 6,159 patients have died in hospital after testing positive for coronavirus in the UK as of 5pm on Monday – an increase of 786 on the previous day.
However, Sir Patrick said there were signs the number of new cases ‘could be moving in the right direction’.
‘It’s possible that we’re beginning to see the beginning of change in terms of the curve flattening a little bit. We won’t know that for sure for a week or so,’ he said.