Coronavirus: Prime Minister Boris Johnson moved to intensive care after condition worsens

Greg Heffer, political reporter

Boris Johnson has been moved to intensive care after his condition worsened, Downing Street has said.

The prime minister was admitted to St Thomas' Hospital in London on Sunday night - 10 days after testing positive for coronavirus - due to "persistent" symptoms of COVID-19.

He was initially admitted for further tests but Mr Johnson's health has since deteriorated, Number 10 said.

The prime minister, 55, is understood to have experienced breathing difficulties on Monday afternoon and was given oxygen.

He remains conscious and has not been put on a ventilator, but was moved to intensive care as a precaution should he later need one.

The prime minister phoned Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to ask him to deputise "where necessary", a request made before Mr Johnson was moved to intensive care.

The Queen has been kept informed of the developments, a Buckingham Palace source told Sky News.

Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill spoke to ministers on a conference call on Monday night shortly before the news of the prime minister's health was announced.

One cabinet minister told Sky News the development was "deeply worrying and upsetting".

A Number 10 spokesman said: "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 prime minister has asked Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who is the First Secretary of State, to deputise for him where necessary.

"The prime minister is receiving excellent care, and thanks all NHS staff for their hard work and dedication."

It is understood the decision to move the prime minister to intensive care was made around 7pm on Monday.

This came shortly after Mr Raab had said, at the government's daily coronavirus briefing, that Mr Johnson was in "good spirits" after spending a "comfortable" night in hospital.

St Thomas' is across the River Thames from the Houses of Parliament.

Mr Johnson did not travel to the hospital by ambulance on Sunday night but travelled the short distance from Downing Street by "private transportation", the prime minister's official spokesman said earlier on Monday.

The prime minister was said to have received his ministerial red box containing his official papers and was continuing to lead the government and work from his hospital bed during the day on Monday, before his condition worsened.

The prime minister's pregnant fiancee Carrie Symonds revealed at the weekend that she had spent a week in bed with coronavirus symptoms.

Mr Raab said there was an "incredibly strong team spirit" behind Mr Johnson, as he prepared to assume some of the prime minister's duties on Monday night.

"The government's business will continue," the foreign secretary said. "The prime minister is in safe hands with that brilliant team at St Thomas' hospital.

"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."

Mr Raab chaired the daily morning meeting of the government's coronavirus "war cabinet" on Monday, which is usually led by Mr Johnson.

Tuesday's usual full cabinet meeting has been postponed, but Mr Raab will again be expected to chair the daily COVID-19 conference call.

Dr Simon Clarke, a microbiologist at the University of Reading, told Sky News the prime minister was probably being supported with fluids in hospital.

"The NHS, particularly at this moment, doesn't give up intensive care beds just for people to be looked over - it doesn't work like that, even for prime ministers," he added.

"He would not be in intensive care unless he needed to be in intensive care, especially not at this time."

World leaders and UK political party leaders all sent their wishes to the prime minister on Monday night.

Newly-elected Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the deterioration in Mr Johnson's health was "terribly sad news".

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: "My thoughts are with the PM and his family - sending him every good wish."

London mayor Sadiq Khan said he was "praying for the prime minister's swift recovery".

He added St Thomas' Hospital "has some of the finest medical staff in the world, and he couldn't be in safer hands".

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Former prime ministers David Cameron and Theresa May both sent their wishes to Mr Johnson.

"Get well soon. You are in great hands and we all want you safe, well and back in 10 Downing Street," Mr Cameron posted on Twitter.

And Mrs May tweeted: "My thoughts and prayers are with Boris Johnson and his family as he continues to receive treatment in hospital.

"This horrific virus does not discriminate. Anyone can get it. Anyone can spread it. Please #StayHomeSaveLives."

French President Emmanuel Macron and European Council President Charles Michel also sent their wishes to Mr Johnson on social media, while Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said he sent "a hug to all the British people".

US President Donald Trump sent his wishes to his "very good friend" Mr Johnson.

"We're very saddened to hear that he was taken into intensive care this afternoon, a little while ago," he said.

"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."