Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been admitted to an intensive care unit just hours after he said he was in good spirits in a London hospital where he was admitted with the new coronavirus.
Johnson is understood to be conscious, and that his move to intensive care was advised in case he requires a ventilator to assist with his breathing.
Sky News reported that the Cabinet was "informed of the Prime Minister's condition via video call" and that he was not using a ventilator.
The Prime Minister's spokesman earlier said Johnson had spent a comfortable night and remained in charge of government despite being admitted to St Thomas' Hospital after Covid-19 symptoms of a cough and fever persisted, 10 days after he was diagnosed.
Newstalk ZB political commentator Rod Liddle, who previously worked with Johnson at the Spectator, has grave concerns about his condition.
"It is pretty grim, you have to say. We are all rooting for him, obviously.
"But, the horrible statistics are, if you in intensive care with coronavirus, the latest statistics show anywhere between 30 to 50 per cent will survive."
British journalist Andrew Neil, a BBC presenter, tweeted: "I'm told on good authority that after circa 10 days this virus either gives up and you recover with no damage done or it really decides to go for you and you have a 50:50 chance. The PM's decision to work through his isolation will not have helped. Nor loneliness in Downing St."
The decision to move a coronavirus patient to intensive care is never taken lightly and is a clear indication that they need artificial support to help their bodies see off the virus.
A modern intensive care unit provides a wide range of life support systems, of which oxygen and mechanical ventilation are just two options.
Most likely, Johnson is having his vital signs carefully monitored while receiving oxygen piped through a mask.
While mechanically ventilated patients are normally unconscious, oxygen treatment does not require this.
Intensive care is not a "cure" for the coronavirus. In the absence of specific drugs that fight the illness, it provides what doctors call "supportive care".
Saying that he has been asked to deputise for the Prime Minister now that his condition has worsened, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said:
'The government business will continue, the PM is in safe hands with a brilliant team. There's an incredibly strong team spirit behind the Prime Minister. That's the way we'll bring the whole country through the coronavirus phase right now"
Moments after Johnson's office assured the nation the PM was comfortable, a BBC correspondent tweeted he had been admitted to intensive care.
Downing Street then issued a statement.
The statement read: "Since Sunday evening, the Prime Minister has been under the care of doctors at St Thomas' Hospital, in London, after being admitted with persistent symptoms of coronavirus.
"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."
It continued: "The PM is receiving excellent care, and thanks all NHS staff for their hard work and dedication."
Johnson had not long before sent out a tweet thanking the National Health Service for taking care of him and others.
Professor Derek Hill, Professor of Medical Imaging, University College London (UCL), said:
"It seems clear that the Prime Minister went to hospital because he had difficulty breathing. It seems he was initially put on oxygen, and was conscious.
"One of the features of Covid-19 in all countries seems to be that many more men become seriously ill than women - especially in the over 40 age group. Also we know that people under about 60 seem to have a higher chance of making a recovery from critical illness with COVID-19 than older people. But there is no doubt this turn of events means Boris Johnson is extremely sick."
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"On the advice of my doctor, I went into hospital for some routine tests as I'm still experiencing coronavirus symptoms," Johnson said in the tweet. "I'm in good spirits and keeping in touch with my team, as we work together to fight this virus and keep everyone safe.".
Johnson's spokesman, James Slack, refused to say what kind of tests Johnson was undergoing. He insisted that "the PM remains in charge of the government".
"He is receiving updates in hospital and is continuing to receive a [ministerial red] box" of files and briefing papers, Slack said,
The 55-year-old leader had been quarantined in his Downing Street residence since being diagnosed with Covid-19 on March 26 — the first known head of government to fall ill with the virus.
He continued to preside at daily meetings on the outbreak until Sunday and has released several video messages during his 10 days in isolation. Raab chaired the meeting Monday.
Britain has no official post of deputy prime minister, but Raab has been designated to take over should Johnson become incapacitated.
Speaking at the government's daily coronavirus press briefing, Raab said Johnson was being "regularly updated," but admitted he had not spoken to him since Saturday.
"He's in charge, but he'll continue to take doctors' advice on what to do next," Raab said.
Johnson was admitted to the hospital as a message to the nation from the Queen was being broadcast Sunday evening. The 93-year-old monarch urged the public to show resolve and follow advice to stay inside.
Concerns had been growing about Johnson's welfare ever since he posted a message Friday saying that he was feeling better, though was still feverish.
The virus causes mild to moderate symptoms in most people, but for some, especially older adults and the infirm, it can cause pneumonia and lead to death.
The government said Monday that 51,608 people had been confirmed to have the coronavirus in Britain, 5373 of whom have died.
One of the advantages of being in the hospital is that it will allow doctors to directly monitor Johnson's condition.
Hill said that since Covid-19 causes difficulty breathing, one test performed on people with the disease is lung imaging with ultrasound or CT scans to see how badly they might be affected.
"Some people are rapidly discharged," he said. "Some others can quickly deteriorate and need help breathing. We have no reason to believe the PM needs such help."
Hill said there are various types of breathing help, depending on the person and the difficulties.
"The reasons some people get seriously ill with Covid-19 while others have minor symptoms is not yet fully understood," Hill said. "But doctors managing these patients report that more men than women have serious problems, and patients who are overweight or have previous health problems are at higher risk." - AP
• Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website