LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson would spend a second night in intensive care on Tuesday to help his fight against a coronavirus infection, as his appointed deputy said he would go through because “he is a fighter”.
Johnson gets oxygen support but is stable, in a good mood and breathing without help, said Secretary of State Dominic Raab, who is in Johnson, adding that he had not needed mechanical ventilation.
“I am confident that he will go through, if there is one thing I know about this prime minister, he is a fighter, and he will be back at the helm leading us through this crisis in short order,” he told Raab a daily news conference.
Johnson, 55, was taken to St Thomas’ Hospital, across the Thames from Parliament late Sunday after suffering from symptoms including fever and coughing for more than ten days.
His condition deteriorated, and he was moved to an intensive care unit on Monday if he needed to be put on a ventilator.
In an update on Tuesday night, his Downing Street office said he would remain for close monitoring and no further update was expected before Wednesday.
Queen Elizabeth wished Johnson a full and speedy recovery and sent a message of support to his pregnant fiancee, Carrie Symonds, and his family, echoing warm words from US President Trump and other world leaders.
Raab said: “He is not only the prime minister and to all of us in the cabinet, he is not only our boss, he is also a colleague and he is also our friend.”
Who is in the lead?
However, the absence of Johnson, the first leader of a superpower hospitalized with COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the new coronavirus, has raised questions about who is really responsible at such a crucial time.
Britain has no formal succession plan if a prime minister is incapable, and Raab, 46, said Johnson had asked him to deputize for as long as needed. If Raab was incapable, Finance Minister Rishi Sunak would stand in, though ministers refused to say who now had ultimate control over Britain’s nuclear weapons.
“I have complete confidence in the arrangements that the Prime Minister has put in place so that I can fulfill his responsibility, deputize for him while he is out of action, and we obviously hope that it will be for a very limited time, Sa Raab.
He said decisions were made collectively by the cabinet, some of which have also tested positive for the virus. Cabinet Minister Michael Gove was the latest to self-insulate.
Raab said ministers had “very clear instructions, very clear instructions” from Johnson. However, it was not clear what would happen if there was a major disagreement.
LOCKDOWN FOR OVERVIEW
The government will decide at the beginning of next week whether to start facilitating an almost total economic and social lockdown that is supposed to prevent the transmission of the virus.
Some ministers have suggested that it should be extended, after seeing some people use sunny weather as an excuse to flow the rules. Raab himself said the government was not yet in a position to review the shutdown.
The UK’s most important scientific adviser said it would take another week before it was clear if the graph of new cases became flat. Tuesday’s daily death toll of 786 was the highest so far.
The pound GBP = D3 dipped in Asian trade on news of Johnson’s intensive care treatment but then gathered in the London trade. Against the dollar, it ended the session with 0.9%. [GBP/]
Even before the coronavirus, Johnson had a tumultuous year.
He won the top job in July 2019, negotiated a Brexit agreement with the European Union, surprisingly won a snap election in December and then led Britain out of the EU on 31 January – and promised to seal a new trade agreement with the bloc at the end of this year.
The government has said it does not plan to extend that deadline in light of the epidemic.
Johnson has been criticized for initially approving a much more modest response to the coronavirus outbreak than other major European countries, although he then introduced a lockdown because forecasts showed that half a million people could otherwise die.
Additional reports from Paul Sandle, Kylie MacLellan, Alistair Smout, Andy Bruce, Elizabeth Howcroft and Kate Kelland; Writing by Michael Holden, Kate Holton, Elizabeth Piper and Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Angus MacSwan / Kevin Liffey / Mark Heinrich