LONDON, United Kingdom – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was recuperating at his countryside retreat on Monday, April 13, but remained off work after saying his battle with coronavirus “could have gone either way.”
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is deputizing in Johnson’s absence, and faces a decision this week on whether to extend a nationwide lockdown aimed at stemming the spread of COVID-19.
Confinement measures have been in place since March 20 in Britain, where 11,329 people hospitalized with coronavirus have now died, making it one of the worst-affected nations in the global pandemic.
There were 717 new deaths reported Monday, down from previous daily tolls. Numbers typically fall after the weekend due to delays in the collection of data.
Johnson became the most high-profile leader to contract the virus last month and spent a week in hospital – including 3 days in intensive care – before being discharged on Sunday, April 12.
He thanked medics who cared for him when it “could have gone either way” in a candid video message.
Decision due on lockdown extension
The 55-year-old is now staying at Chequers, a 16th-century mansion northwest of London used as a retreat by British premiers for the past century.
He has reportedly been reunited with his pregnant partner Carrie Symonds, who earlier this month reported suffering from coronavirus symptoms herself.
Over the weekend, Johnson spoke to Raab, who he asked to stand in for him when he was admitted to intensive care one week ago.
“The prime minister is focusing on his recovery, and he’s not currently carrying out government work,” Johnson’s spokesman said Monday.
Raab has been chairing the government’s daily meetings on coronavirus, but a decision is due on Thursday, April 16, when the three-week-old nationwide lockdown comes up for review.
Ministers must decide whether to continue demanding people stay at home and keep non-essential shops closed.
Given the death toll, has been rising by around 900 per day since last week, few expect the restrictions to be lifted this week.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said in Scotland, “that review is not likely to result in these restrictions being lifted in the very near future.
“There are early optimistic signs that the steps we are taking are working, but until we know more, until we have solid evidence, we must stick with it,” she told reporters in Edinburgh.
‘Saved my life’
Johnson’s government has faced questions about whether it was too slow to impose the lockdown, keeping pubs, shops and schools open even as they were shutting across Europe.
According to The Times newspaper, 10 cabinet ministers – just under half – are pressing for the lockdown to be eased next month over concern about the economic impact.
The government also remains under pressure as doctors and nurses complain of a lack of protective equipment and a shortage of coronavirus tests.
Johnson tested positive at the end of March, and after 10 days holed up in Downing Street was admitted to hospital. Twenty-four hours later he was moved to intensive care.
He was given oxygen, although he was not put on a ventilator, and in a video message released on Sunday, he said he had been in real danger.
“I hope they won’t mind if I mention in particular two nurses who stood by my bedside for 48 hours when things could have gone either way,” he said.
He named them as Jenny from New Zealand and Luis from Portugal, both of whom work for Britain’s state-run National Health Service (NHS).
He added “the NHS has saved my life, no question.”
The parents of Jenny, identified in media as Jenny McGee, spoke of their “exceptional” pride at her role.
“She has told us these things over the years and it doesn’t matter what patient she is looking after, this is what she does,” her mother Caroline told Television New Zealand. – Rappler.com