UK PM Johnson stable overnight and in good spirits: spokesman

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Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson claps outside 11 Downing Street to salute local heroes during a nationwide Clap for Carers NHS initiative on April 2, 2020. (10 Downing Street via AP)
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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been moved to the intensive care unit of a London hospital after his coronavirus symptoms worsened. (AP/File Photo)
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Updated 07 April 2020

UK PM Johnson stable overnight and in good spirits: spokesman

  • Johnson has asked Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to deputize for him

LONDON: British prime minister Boris Johnson was stable overnight in intensive care after suffering a deterioration of his COVID-19 symptoms and he remains in good spirits, his spokesman said on Tuesday.
The spokesman told reporters the prime minister, who was admitted to hospital on Sunday, was receiving standard oxygen treatment and was breathing without any other assistance. He did not require a mechanical ventilator.
“The prime minister has been stable overnight and remains in good spirits. He is receiving standard oxygen treatment and breathing without any other assistance. He has not required mechanical ventilation, or non-invasive respiratory support,” the spokesman said.

Johnson was on Monday admitted to intensive care after being hospitalized with coronavirus, with foreign minister Dominic Raab to take over his duties “where necessary”, his Downing Street office 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,” said the Downing Street press release.

“The PM has asked Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab ... to deputize for him where necessary,” it added.

The prime minister was moved in case he needed to use a ventilator, the government added.

 

Johnson was admitted to St Thomas’ Hospital in London on Sunday with a temperature and a cough after testing positive for coronavirus on March 27, becoming the most high-profile world leader infected with the disease that has spread rapidly across the globe.

The 55-year-old had been self-isolating in his Downing Street flat but on Sunday evening was driven to a nearby state-run hospital on the advice of his doctor.

Officials said it was a “precautionary step” but questions had earlier been raised about whether the Conservative leader could still run the country. The British government was criticized for initially refusing to follow other European countries in requiring people to stay home as the virus spread.

And Johnson himself said in early March that he was still shaking hands with people.

But two weeks ago, he ordered a nationwide lockdown and Britain is now in the grip of a serious outbreak. Over 50,000 cases and more than 5,000 deaths have been recorded so far, with a latest daily toll of 439.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock and the heir to the throne, Prince Charles, have both been infected with coronavirus, although they have since recovered.

In response to the crisis, Queen Elizabeth II made a rare public address on Sunday night, evoking the spirit of World War II and urging Britons to stay united.

“We will be with our friends again, we will be with our families again, we will meet again,” she said.

Housing minister Robert Jenrick told BBC television that the prime minister had been working “phenomenally hard” during the crisis, adding that he would be finding it “very frustrating” to be ill.

Johnson is not known to have any underlying health issues, although he has struggled with his weight, but some questioned if he should have taken more time off.

Junior health minister Nadine Dorries, who also had coronavirus but has recovered, added: “Many with #COVID19 are felled by fatigue/temperature and use isolation to sleep and recover.

“Boris has risked his health and worked every day on our behalf to lead the battle against this vile virus.”

Sarah Vine, a newspaper columnist and wife of senior cabinet minister Michael Gove, added: “Boris has worked non-stop throughout his illness -- and now we see the result.”

US President Donald Trump said he was “hopeful and sure” Johnson would recover, calling the prime minister “a friend of mine” and a “great leader”.

Johnson’s pregnant partner, Carrie Symonds, moved out of Downing Street after some staff fell ill. But she said on Saturday she had just spent a week in bed with symptoms, although she has not been tested.

Johnson’s spokesman would not confirm a report in The Times newspaper reported that the prime minister had been given oxygen treatment.

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

He said they would also check Johnson’s blood to “see what the immune response to the virus looks like, and to assess liver and kidney function”, and may also perform an electrocardiogram to check the heart.


Ex-UK spy chief: COVID-19 could be from Wuhan lab

Updated 50 min 28 sec ago

Ex-UK spy chief: COVID-19 could be from Wuhan lab

  • Sir Richard Dearlove cites controversial study saying virus possibly man-made

LONDON: The coronavirus pandemic may have started by accident in a lab in the Chinese city of Wuhan, according to a former British spy.

Sir Richard Dearlove, who headed the UK’s intelligence agency MI6 until 2004, told the UK’s Daily Telegraph newspaper that the origins of the virus may not reside in a wet market in Wuhan, where it had previously been suggested that it passed to humans from bats.

Instead, he claims that it may have escaped from a lab, citing a controversial study by British and Norwegian researchers, including Prof. Angus Dalgleish of St. George’s at the University of London and John Fredrik Moxnes, a chief scientific adviser to the Norwegian military.

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READ MORE: Did this Chinese government lab in Wuhan leak the coronavirus?

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The Chinese city is home to two labs that have carried out tests on bats, as well as coronaviruses, in the past: The Wuhan Center for Disease Control and the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

The presence of both these facilities has fueled speculation that COVID-19 is the result of human error, and that the virus escaped the confines of testing to reach the local population by accident.

It is a theory that has been promoted most notably by US President Donald Trump, while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has previously talked of “enormous evidence” that the virus is a man-made pathogen.

It has drawn criticism, though, from many scientists worldwide, and the study in question has been rejected by a number of scientific journals.

Evidence published in British medical journal The Lancet claimed to be able to trace 27 of the first 41 identified COVID-19 cases back to the same Wuhan wet market, reinforcing the original hypothesis.

The US National Intelligence Director’s office, meanwhile, said it took the view of “the wider scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus was not man-made or genetically modified,” though it added that it would continue to assess all evidence to the contrary.

The study, though, claims to have identified evidence that the virus’s genetic sequence may have been edited, calling it a “remarkably well-adapted virus for human co-existence.” 

Sir Richard said scientists at one of the facilities may have been conducting “gene-splicing experiments” in an effort to identify potentially dangerous pathogens like the SARS epidemic in 2003.

“It’s a risky business if you make a mistake,” Sir Richard told the Telegraph. “Look at the stories ... of the attempts by the (Chinese) leadership to lock down any debate about the origins of the pandemic and the way that people have been arrested or silenced.

“I think it will make every country in the world rethink how it treats its relationship with China and how the international community behaves towards the Chinese leadership.”

The UK government has said it has seen “no evidence” to suggest that the virus originated in a lab.