Boris Johnson can run country from hospital bed, says UK minister | Politics

A senior minister has insisted Boris Johnson is fit enough to lead the country from his hospital bed after he was admitted with persistent coronavirus symptoms.

Robert Jenrick, the communities secretary, said Johnson was continuing to run the country from an NHS hospital, despite concerns the prime minister has been working rather than resting over the last week.

Johnson was admitted on Sunday evening with a high fever on the advice of his doctor, with Downing Street insisting he was undergoing routine tests.

He was kept in overnight. Most coronavirus patients are in hospital for more than a week on average.

However, Jenrick told BBC Breakfast: “We all hope and expect that he can get back to No 10 very soon.”

What do the restrictions involve?

People in the UK will only be allowed to leave their home for the following purposes:

  • Shopping for basic necessities, as infrequently as possible
  • One form of exercise a day – for example a run, walk, or cycle – alone or with members of your household
  • Any medical need, to provide care or to help a vulnerable person
  • Travelling to and from work, but only where this is absolutely necessary and cannot be done from home

Police will have the powers to enforce the rules, including through fines and dispersing gatherings. To ensure compliance with the instruction to stay at home, the government will:

  • Close all shops selling non-essential goods, including clothing and electronic stores and other premises including libraries, playgrounds and outdoor gyms, and places of worship
  • Stop all gatherings of more than two people in public – excluding people you live with
  • Stop all social events, including weddings, baptisms and other ceremonies, but excluding funerals

Parks will remain open for exercise, but gatherings will be dispersed.

If his condition worsens, Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary and first secretary of state, is the designated minister to take charge. Raab is expected to chair a Monday morning of the government’s C-19 committee, which leads the response to the pandemic.

The pound fell against the dollar and euro overnight on Monday as foreign exchange markets took fright at the possibility of Johnson being out of action.

Johnson had been hoping to leave quarantine on Friday but his persistent temperature meant he had to remain inside his flat at No 11 Downing Street.

The Guardian was told last week Johnson was more seriously ill than either he or his officials were prepared to admit, and that he was being seen by doctors who were concerned about his breathing.

But Downing Street flatly denied the prime minister’s health had seriously deteriorated, and insisted there were no plans at that point for him to be admitted to hospital.

Earlier on Sunday, Matt Hancock was asked just how ill the prime minister was. The health secretary told Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “He’s OK. I’ve been talking to him every day, several times a day … he’s very much got his hand on the tiller. But he’s still got a temperature.”

He added: “He’s working away inside Downing Street. He’s in good spirits.”

Hancock himself has only recently come out of isolation after testing positive for coronavirus, although his symptoms appear to have been notably milder.

Johnson’s partner, Carrie Symonds, who is pregnant, revealed on Saturday that she had also been suffering from the virus but was recovering.

While No 10 did not say what tests Johnson would undergo in hospital, experts said they would be likely to focus on assessing how the prime minister’s lungs, heart and other organs were responding to the virus.

“Doctors will be monitoring important vital signs such as oxygen saturations,” said Dr Rupert Beale, who heads the cell biology of infection laboratory at the Francis Crick Institute in London.

“They will also check blood tests to see what the immune response to the virus looks like, and to assess liver and kidney function. They will perform an electrocardiogram to check the heart. More sophisticated tests may include a CT scan of the chest to get an accurate picture of the lungs.”

With Johnson in hospital, the ministers on the government’s coronavirus response will be looking ahead to next weekend, which is the point at which it will have to extend or end the lockdown.

Jenrick signalled the lockdown was unlikely to end at the end of the week, saying some of the most challenging weeks were likely still to come.

As communities secretary, he said the government “desperately” did not want to shut parks but it could happen if people continued to congregate for picnics.

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