British Prime Minister Boris Johnson remains in intensive care at a London hospital, but his condition has been improving.
“I can also tell you that he has been sitting up in bed and engaging positively with the clinical team,” Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, said Wednesday. “The Prime Minister is not only my colleague and my boss but also my friend. And my thoughts are with him and his family.”
In a statement later in the day, Downing Street officials said Mr. Johnson continued “to make steady progress. He remains in intensive care,” adding that he was receiving standard oxygen treatment and was breathing without the assistance of a ventilator.
Mr. Johnson, 55, was moved to the intensive-care unit of St. Thomas’ Hospital on Monday, almost two weeks after he tested positive for COVID-19 and became seriously ill. Several other senior government officials, including cabinet minister Michael Gove, have gone into self-isolation because of their exposure to the virus.
The Prime Minister’s absence comes at a critical time for the government. The number of confirmed cases in the U.K. climbed above 60,000 Wednesday, and the death toll hit 7,097. Angela McLean, the deputy chief government scientific adviser, said the spread of the virus had not been accelerating and admissions to intensive-care units had been slowing. She expressed some hope that the peak of the outbreak was in sight.
The government now has to consider whether to ease the nationwide lockdown Mr. Johnson imposed two weeks ago. Schools, shops, restaurants and pubs have been closed, and excursions outside the home have been limited.
The restrictions are supposed to be reviewed in the coming days, but Mr. Sunak was vague about the timing Wednesday. He said there would be a meeting Thursday “to talk about the approach to the review.” He added that it would be based on data from medical experts, which won’t be available until next week. “In all these instances, we are driven and basing our decisions on the science and what is best for controlling the spread of this virus,” he said.
However, Mark Drakeford, the Welsh First Minister, said Wednesday that the lockdown would be extended.
Britain has no deputy prime minister, and Mr. Johnson selected Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to assume some duties. However, Mr. Raab’s power appears to be limited. He has been chairing cabinet meetings and the government’s daily meeting of its coronavirus response team, which includes cabinet ministers and health experts. But he has deflected questions about whether he is fully in charge and if he can make final decisions on behalf of Mr. Johnson.
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