Boris Johnson fights ‘truly frightening’ virus as Michael Gove tells of Cabinet shock at PM’s condition

JOE MURPHY, NIcholas Cecil
@BorisJohnson

Boris Johnson is battling a “truly frightening” virus that is malevolent and malign, his friend and Cabinet colleague Michael Gove said today.

The Prime Minister, 55, is not on a ventilator but has required oxygen support during a night in intensive care at St Thomas’ Hospital, Mr Gove said .

Dominic Raab is “in charge” of the Government and national security and visited No 10 to chair the daily meeting of ministers and officials tackling Covid-19.

Mr Gove said decisions such as whether to ease lockdown restrictions would be taken “collectively” by the Cabinet. He was speaking from his home where he is self-isolating after a member of his family displayed symptoms of the virus. He is understood to not be displaying any symptoms himself.

“All of us are discovering that this virus has a malignity and a malevolence that is truly frightening,” Mr Gove said, adding the whole Cabinet was “shocked” when informed last night that the Prime Minister had been moved into intensive care following a deterioration in his condition.

Dominic Raab is 'in charge' of the Government (PA)

“Our hopes and prayers are with him and with his family,” he told BBC Breakfast.

Messages of support and concern continued to flood in from around the world .

In Washington, President Donald Trump said Mr Johnson was in a “very serious” condition and offered prayers for his recovery.

Michael Gove, pictured during an interview from home, is self-isolating (Sky News)

“I want to send our very best wishes to a very good friend of mine and a friend to our nation, Prime Minister Boris Johnson,” he announced at a White House briefing. “We’re very saddened to hear that he was taken into intensive care and Americans are all praying for his recovery.

“He’s been a really good friend. He’s been really something very special: strong, resolute, doesn’t quit, doesn’t give up.

“But when you get brought into intensive care, that gets very, very serious with this particular disease.”

The PM remains in hospital in London (REUTERS)

Mr Trump revealed he had asked two US companies to “contact London immediately” and offer the latest experimental drugs to treat the British PM.

“We’ve contacted all of Boris’s doctors, and we’ll see what is going to take place, but they are ready to go.”

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle told BBC Breakfast: “This is our hour of need when we have got to support each other, look after each other, listen to the advice and stick by the advice that Government has given us. Please people, stay at home, look after yourselves, isolate, let’s get beyond it.”

Buckingham Palace confirmed the Queen was being kept informed about the condition of the 14th prime minister of her reign.

Foreign Secretary Mr Raab, who is also First Secretary of State and therefore de facto deputy PM, went into 10 Downing Street to chair the daily emergency planning meeting in the Cabinet room.

Matt Hancock, the Heath Secretary, was also there but other ministers took part by video link. Mr Raab remains based full time at the Foreign Office rather than Number 10. Downing Street last night acknowledged that the PM may have to go onto a ventilator, a step that would involve being rendered unconscious and incapacitated.

Mr Gove was grilled for updates on the PM’s medical condition during a round of media interviews this morning. “He is not on a ventilator. The Prime Minister has received some oxygen support,” Mr Gove told LBC radio.

“He is kept, of course, under close supervision. By being in intensive care if there is further support he needs it is there at hand.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has recovered from coronavirus (10 Downing Street/AFP via Getty)

Asked if Mr Johnson has pneumonia, he indicated there was no such diagnosis at present, replying: “I’m not aware of that.”

He was also interrogated about whether the PM had overworked during his illness. “The Prime Minister loves this country, he wants to do his very best for us,” he said, suggesting Mr Johnson could not be stopped from working.

Mr Gove stressed that the PM’s diary had been “stripped back” last week and that he had followed medical advice at all times.

“The Prime Minister is someone who has amazing energy, great determination, a desire all the time to make sure that things are moving forward,” Mr Gove told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “He displays a great zest for life on the tennis court, but he also in government is a force of nature, a bundle of energy, determined to do the very best for the country that he loves, and therefore it’s naturally concerning when the Prime Minister is ill, but he is receiving the best possible treatment.”

On the critical question of where government power lies during the Prime Minister’s illness, Mr Gove stated: “Dominic is in charge.” But he also put emphasis on the “team spirit” and collective decision making in Cabinet.

Mr Gove said no discussion was taking place about forming a national government that would include opposition leaders. A source close to Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said they would not push for a national government. The Prime Minister was taken to St Thomas’ on Sunday night after failing to get over coronavirus which he revealed he had on March 27.

The move to an intensive care unit was said to be a “precaution” in case he needed to be put on a ventilator. Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth wished the Tory leader well. “We’re all rooting for him, we want him to come through this, because we want him back fit and healthy leading the fight against this awful, awful virus,” he told BBC Breakfast.

Former deputy PM Lord Heseltine said: “It’s a shattering development... People don’t deserve bad luck like that.”

Parisians were today banned from outdoor sports activity in daylight hours in a tightening of France’s lockdown