Boris Johnson moved to intensive care after his condition worsens | World news

Boris Johnson has been admitted to intensive care after his coronavirus symptoms worsened, with overall charge of the government handed to Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary.

The prime minister was moved to intensive care at St Thomas’ hospital, London, at 7pm, where he remains conscious but has been taken in case he needs ventilation.

A No 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 PM is receiving excellent care, and thanks all NHS staff for their hard work and dedication.”

Intensive care beds are reserved for those who are very ill, and in the case of coronavirus, often those who need to be put on a ventilator to help them breathe. Until Monday evening, Johnson is understood to have received oxygen through a non-invasive mask only.

The decision to hand over power to Raab was taken after concern in the cabinet and among MPs that Johnson should have been resting instead of working.

At midday, Downing Street was still insisting that the prime minister was able to read his red box of government papers, and at the daily 5pm press conference, Raab claimed Johnson was still fully in charge and issuing instructions.

No 10 insisted earlier on Monday that Johnson was only in hospital as a “precautionary measure” and for “routine tests”, having said up until his admission that he was suffering from mild symptoms.

Claims that his condition had not deteriorated came under increased scrutiny after it emerged that a bed at St Thomas’ was being prepared for Johnson as early as Thursday last week. He spent Sunday night on an empty wing that is normally used for elective procedures, a source said, before being moved to intensive care on Monday evening.

The Guardian has been told of frustration among ministers over Johnson remaining in charge for so long rather than resting, even after he had received oxygen treatment having failed to shake off Covid-19 symptoms for 11 days.

Since the prime minister’s hospital admission, Raab led the daily coronavirus morning meeting, known internally as the “war cabinet”. But several cabinet sources said there was a worry that Johnson’s refusal to let go of power was causing impotence at the top of government.

One said that Raab had spent Monday’s meeting interrogating others about the daily response but there was little sense he was empowered to make decisions, saying there had been “a power vacuum in No 10” at a critical time. Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s most senior adviser, is also isolating with coronavirus symptoms and has not yet returned to work.

It came as the UK death toll from coronavirus exceeded 5,000 for the first time, rising by 439 to 5,373. The daily reported increase fell for the second day in a row, but a Department of Health source cautioned that this can be due to lower reporting at weekends and said the trend needs to be lower during the week to be a cause for optimism.


Coronavirus: Dominic Raab gives update as Johnson remains in hospital – watch in full

At the daily Downing Street press conference at 5pm, Raab said it remained the case that Johnson was “in charge, he is leading and giving instructions as and when required”.

However, he later admitted not having spoken to Johnson since Saturday – the day before the prime minister’s admission to hospital on medical advice.

No 10 insisted it had been “transparent throughout” about Johnson’s medical condition, despite having claimed up until the point of his hospital admission that his symptoms were “mild”. His spokesman dropped that description on Monday, saying instead that his cough and temperature were “persistent”.

Two ministers, James Duddridge and Nadine Dorries, suggested Johnson, 55, needed time to recuperate. Duddridge said it was important for the prime minister to now “rest, look after yourself and let the others do the heavy [lifting]”.

While the prime minister has been in isolation for over a week, reported tensions between Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, and Matt Hancock, the health secretary, emerged at the weekend over the competing demands of the health impacts of coronavirus and its effects on the economy. Tory sources insisted any problems were largely at the level of officials.

There have also been briefings against Mark Sedwill, the cabinet secretary and Johnson’s top civil servant, who some ministers claim has left the government under-prepared.

Meanwhile, No 10 and the Department of Health have been frustrated with both NHS England, for allegedly failing to share data quickly enough at “sit-rep” [situation reports] meetings on the state of services, and Public Health England, for not agreeing to look to private firms for outside testing capacity quickly enough.

One Tory insider said: “It’s made worse when everyone is at home at trying to work via Zoom calls. It’s much more difficult to stay united and that’s when the childish briefing against each other starts. It happened to some extent during the election as well.”

At the same time, there has been confused messaging about the government’s strategy while different ministers have taken No 10’s daily press briefing.

Raab, 46, appeared to mark a yet another change in the government’s strategy on Monday, as he said it was not helpful to talk about ways out of the lockdown yet. Four days earlier, Johnson had spoken of mass testing as “the way through” the lockdown and “key to the coronavirus puzzle”, while Hancock had floated the idea that restrictions could be eased through the help of immunity passports for those who had recovered from coronavirus.

But amid multiple reports that the first antibody tests are performing poorly, Raab said: “Work – so that we can properly assess the measures that have been introduced – is in place but also that we do not want to confuse the message right now because we are not past the peak.”

Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, also said it was “too early” and a “mistake” to have a “serious discussion about all the things we need to do step-by-step to move to the next phase of managing this” without the UK having seen a peak in cases.

He also stressed the government would need to balance many factors in deciding whether to ease the lockdown. These include people dying directly from the virus itself, dying indirectly if the NHS became overwhelmed with cases, the effects of postponing other types of healthcare because of coronavirus, and the long-term health impact on people due to social and economic reasons.

Jill Rutter, a senior fellow at the Institute for Government, expressed concern over reports of tensions between ministers and Whitehall over strategy, saying Johnson “should have read the riot act” to the cabinet over leaks at a time of emergency had he not been hospitalised.

She conceded there could be some “background fear” among some civil servants about making decisions that could upset political masters after allegations of bullying earlier this year.

Some in Whitehall had shown talent for “constructing quite careful audit trails” during Brexit, she said. “This kind of unproductive buck passing, arguing with ‘this useless person’ or ‘that annoying agency’ – you would hope people are not spending time on that.”

Rutter also said little would be lost if Johnson took time out to recover. “All this macho stuff about working from his bed, I just don’t get. All the big strategic decisions have been taken on lockdown, on the economy, and let’s face it, he is no Michael Barber [head of Tony Blair’s delivery until 2001 to 2005]. Now is the time to let his team get on with implementing things,” she added.

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