LONDON – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was moved to an intensive care unit at a London hospital on Monday night after his coronavirus symptoms worsened, his office said in a statement.
Johnson, 55, has asked Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab “to deputize for him where necessary,” according to a Downing Street statement.
“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, the statement said.
Johnson tested positive for the respiratory illness on March 17, the first major world leader to publicly acknowledge having COVID-19. His symptoms include a high temperature and a cough.
Earlier Monday, Johnson tweeted that he had a “comfortable night” and was in “good spirits” while receiving regular briefings from his cabinet and government advisers.
Johnson's illness means that he has had to effectively step away from day-to-day governing as Britain, like much of the world, faces the worst public health crisis in a century. Britain has more than 51,000 confirmed cases, and 5,300 deaths, and the virus' peak in the country is expected as soon as this weekend.
His battle with coronavirus also comes as Johnson's decision to belatedly lock down Britain comes under increasing scrutiny. Britain's leader initially gambled that the country's best bet to overcome coronavirus would be to try to get to “herd” or majority immunity as quickly as possible. The thinking behind this was that it would protect the country in the long term if, as happened with the 1918 Spanish Flu, a highly fatal second wave of infections occurs at some point in the future.
But Johnson dramatically changed tactics in mid-March after researchers at Imperial College London projected that around 250,000 people in Britain would die if “chains of transmission” for the virus weren't immediately slowed or broken by a lockdown.
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Raab, 46, is Britain's first secretary of state and Johnson's de facto deputy. While Britain does not have a written constitution indicating a clear line of succession, Johnson has appointed him to run the country if he is incapacitated or unable to do it. Raab chaired the government's emergency coronavirus meeting on Monday.
Like Johnson, Raab was a prominent member of the campaign for Britain to leave the European Union – Brexit. While he will deputize for Johnson in his absence, it's not immediately clear if he would automatically, permanently keep the role if Johnson were to die or whether there will need to be some kind of vote to authenticate his premiership.
Britain elects a party, not an individual, meaning that Johnson's ruling Conservative Party would not necessarily be obliged to call an election.
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