Boris Johnson stable as lockdown extension looms

LONDON (AFP) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday began a fourth day in intensive care “improving” in his battle with coronavirus, as his government prepared to extend a nationwide lockdown introduced last month.

Johnson is the most high-profile world leader to become infected with COVID-19 and his transfer to intensive care on Monday is unprecedented for a prime minister during a national emergency in modern times.

“He’s stable, improving, sat up and engaged with medical staff,” Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden told BBC News. “I think things are getting better for him.”

The disease has struck at the heart of the British government, infected more than 60,000 people nationwide and killed over 7,000, with another record daily death toll of 938 reported on Wednesday.

Senior ministers were set to discuss at Thursday’s daily coronavirus response meeting the process for extending the stringent social distancing measures rolled out on March 23.

A steward holds a sign issuing instructions to NHS staff visiting a drive-through COVID-19 testing centre at the car park of the Ikea store in Gateshead, England on April 9. PHOTO: AFP

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who is deputising for Johnson, will lead the so-called “war cabinet”, as he has done since Monday.

However, ministers have made it clear no announcement on the status of the lockdown – rolled out for an initial three weeks – would be made until that period has ended on Monday, at the earliest.

“You shouldn’t expect a decision today on restrictions,” Dowden said, stressing the actual review would happen next week. “Right now it’s just beginning to work.”

He also noted that the new COVID-19 cases in Britain were not “accelerating”.

“When we have the opportunity to change it, we will, but that is not the moment now.”

Johnson arrived in hospital on Sunday night following concerns he still had a cough and high temperature 10 days after being diagnosed with coronavirus.