Johnson Improving in Hospital as U.K. Deaths Rise to Record

Alex Morales, Olivia Konotey-Ahulu and Joe Mayes
Johnson Improving in Hospital as U.K. Deaths Rise to Record

(Bloomberg) -- Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s condition is improving in the hospital, where he’s been in the critical care unit for two nights, as a record number of daily deaths from Coronavirus were reported in the U.K..

“The latest from the hospital is that the prime minister remains in intensive care where his condition is improving,” Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak said in a televised press conference on Wednesday. “He’s been sitting up and engaging positively with the clinical team.”

Johnson was taken into St Thomas’ Hospital in London on Sunday and moved to the critical care unit on Monday after struggling to shake off virus symptoms, including a cough and a fever. He has been receiving standard treatment with oxygen and has not needed a ventilator, the premier’s spokesman James Slack earlier told reporters in London.

The national picture, however, is bleaker, with a record 938 people dying of the virus in the 24 hours to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, bringing the U.K. toll to 7,097, the Department for Health said. Johnson put the country into lock down on March 23 and an extension is now likely when the restrictions are due for review on Monday, people familiar with the matter said.

There’s not enough evidence yet to justify relaxing the restrictions, though discussions are ongoing and no formal decision has yet been taken, according to the officials, who asked not to be named because the plans are private.

While Johnson is “in good spirits,” he is not working, and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is now in charge of the government in all areas. “He has the ability to contact those that he needs to,” Slack said. “He is following the advice of his doctors at all times.”

Entering Peak

Scientists predict the U.K. will be headed into the peak of the outbreak over the next week, at a time when the country is without its leader. The government is already battling criticism of its handling of the crisis, with hospitals short of protective equipment and testing rates lagging behind other countries.

With signs of the pandemic turning the corner in Spain and Italy, Europe’s hardest-hit countries, Britain is moving into its most critical phase, with deaths still rising.

On Tuesday, Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance said there were signs for optimism in the numbers for new infections, which were stable. There would need more data, though, before the authorities could make any decision to end a lock down that’s crippling the economy.

Lockdown

Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt suggested it may be another month before the government can lift restrictions.

Briefing reporters on Wednesday, Slack said a decision is likely to be announced on whether to extend or ease the lock down next week.

“We need to keep delivering a very clear message to the public that while this is difficult they need to stick with it,” Slack said. “We are at a critical time in our fight against coronavirus. They need to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.”

(Updates with Johnson’s condition starting in first paragraph.)

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