DOWNING Street’s hopes were rising tonight that Boris Johnson had overcome the worst of his coronavirus struggle as allies branded him “a fighter”.
The PM, 55, spent a second night in intensive care as the Queen led the world in sending him messages of support.
He remained in a stable condition throughout the day and was “in good spirits” after doctors quickly halted his deterioration with oxygen on Monday night.
Despite initial fears, doctors at London’s St Thomas’ Hospital decided there was no need to put him on a ventilator and sedate him.
Tests results also revealed he does not have pneumonia. But his doctors were keeping him in ICU “for close monitoring”.
Medical experts have predicted that Mr Johnson may need several weeks off work to recuperate from his harrowing ordeal once he is able to leave intensive care.
The PM has no contact with the outside world apart from brief messages relayed by doctors since going into ICU. He has been stripped of his two mobile phones.
No10 aides dismissed rumours that Mr Johnson has an underlying health condition and insisted that he has lost weight since hitting 17st when he was Foreign Secretary.
The news of Mr Johnson’s progress came as:
- Patrick Vallance said Britain was starting to see the “beginning of change” in the numbers
- The UK saw a record rise in deaths today of 786 – bringing the total dead to more than 6,000
- Professor Chris Whitty admitted that Britain had been caught behind Germany at the start of the outbreak
- Ministers have vowed to increase testing to 100,000 a day by the end of the month, but scientists are sceptical the target will ever be reached
The Queen led the Royal Family’s well wishes to Boris as world leaders praised his fortitude.
Buckingham Palace said Her Majesty sent a private message to the PM, his pregnant fiancée Carrie Symonds, 32, and his wider family.
The Palace spokesman added: “Her Majesty said they were in her thoughts and that she wishes the Prime Minister a full and speedy recovery”.
Prince William said: “Our thoughts are with the Prime Minister and his family, who like so many in the UK and around the world are affected by coronavirus.
“We wish him a speedy recovery at this difficult time.”
Michael Gove said it was a “huge shock” that Boris’ condition had got worse, and that everyone was “rooting for him”.
He told Good Morning Britain: “We are hoping and praying he pulls through. It was a shock to hear the news of his going into intensive care.”
LOCKDOWN TO BE REVIEWED
He insisted that the PM had wanted to keep going and working throughout his illness because “he loves this country”.
But he stressed he had stripped back his diary in recent days and been taking all the medical advice he was given.
Any decisions that need to be taken will be done collectively in a group, Mr Gove added, and the lockdown would be reviewed by the team “in good time” – with or without the PM.
Experts also cast doubt on whether the lockdown would be formally extended next week.
Boris initially said it would last for three weeks and would end on Monday.
But both Mr Raab and Professor Whitty stressed that Britain needs to reach the peak first before looking at whether the lockdown measures can be changed or relaxed.
Professor Whitty said: “It’s really important we get to the point we are confident we are beyond the peak. There are a large number of different things we need to take into account here.”
The peak is expected to take place this weekend.
Government sources stressed earlier that a formal extension of the lockdown may not happen on Monday but would be around that date.
In the coronavirus law which was rushed through the Commons last month, it says the Health Secretary must review the lockdown measures by the 16 April at the latest – next Thursday.
It was today decided that Mr Raab, who is also First Secretary of State, will not give the Queen the PM’s usual weekly updates. She will in- stead wait for Mr Johnson’s return.
On his first day as stand-in PM, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab held a video conference meeting with the rest of the Cabinet this afternoon.
He promised Mr Johnson that the Cabinet will not “blink or flinch” in the nationwide fight against Covid-19.
Hosting the daily No10 press conference on the virus battle, he said of Boris: “I’m confident he’ll pull through because if there’s one thing I know about this Prime Minister, he’s a fighter and he’ll be back at the helm leading us through this crisis in short order”.
Mr Raab poignantly added: “As will be the case for so many people up and down the country who know someone at work who has fallen ill with coronavirus, it comes as a shock to all of us.
“He’s not just the Prime Minister, and he’s not just our boss. He’s also a colleague and he’s also our friend.”
The PM’s official spokesman added: “The Government has a very clear plan to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, as set out by the Prime Minister.
“Everyone is very clear about what needs to be done.”
No10 insisted there was no cover- up over the seriousness of Mr Johnson’s condition on Monday after saying he had only gone into hospital for “routine tests”. Officials said he deteriorated rapidly later on that afternoon.
Downing Street insisted: “We have been fully frank with you throughout. We have issued you with regular updates on the Prime Minister’s health.”
It was announced that Chancellor Rishi Sunak, 39 — as the Cabinet’s next in line — will take over as stand-in leader if Mr Raab, 46, also succumbs to the virus.
Politicians from across the spectrum united to send Mr Johnson their best and offer their prayers.
Former Tory PM and Boris’ old university friend David Cameron dubbed him “a very tough, very resilient, very fit person”, adding: “I know that from facing him on the tennis court.”
Mr Cameron said: “He’s got a tremendous zest for life, for getting things done, and for leading and for taking decisions. I know he’ll want to get well and get back in charge again.”
The PM’s predecessor Theresa May also said her “thoughts and prayers are with Boris”, and wished him “a speedy recovery”.
New Labour leader, the millionaire Sir Keir Starmer, said: “All of our thoughts are with the Prime Minister and his family at this difficult time.
“This is a national crisis and the Labour Party will act in the national interest, working constructively with the government”.
Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth added: “This isn’t about who you voted for, he is our Prime Minister, we need him to get better to lead the country.”
It emerged today that Mr Raab cannot launch any military action unless he gets the National Security Council’s permission.
The stand-in PM’s powers are much more limited than Mr Johnson’s.
Under emergency protocols, Mr Raab must consult senior Cabinet ministers and intelligence chiefs who sit on the NSC before any new operations are launched.
They would also have to be signed off by the full Cabinet.
A senior government figure said: “He needs collective responsibility on almost anything substantial.”
Ministers refused to discuss who had taken charge of Britain’s nuclear arsenal in Mr Johnson’s absence.
But No10 confirmed that the “letters of last resort” that the PM wrote to the nuclear submarine commanders remained in place and will not be changed.