PM recovers from coronavirus at Chequers as UK faces fourth week in lockdown
Boris Johnson is recovering from coronavirus at his country residence after being discharged from hospital, as the UK braces for its fourth week under lockdown.
The Prime Minister spent a week in St Thomas’ Hospital in central London, including three nights in intensive care, but left on Easter Sunday to be reunited with pregnant fiancee Carrie Symonds.
He is now convalescing at Chequers in Buckinghamshire after doctors ordered the Conservative Party leader to rest.
Number 10 has confirmed that the PM would “not be returning to work immediately” following his discharge.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock, speaking at the Downing Street briefing on Sunday, said there was no advice on how long Mr Johnson should rest before returning to work.
“That will be a clinical decision for his doctors to take with him,” he said.
“The Government is operating perfectly efficiently within the strategy that he set out.”
It means Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, in his role as First Secretary of State, will continue to stand in for Mr Johnson during a week in which the Government is due to face key decisions over the future of the lockdown.
In an emotional speech posted on social media following his hospital release, the PM admitted it “could have gone either way” and thanked NHS staff for saving his life.
Former Tory communications chief Ms Symonds joined in praising the “incredible” staff who treated her husband-to-be, tweeting that she would “never, ever be able to repay you”.
Mr Johnson called the NHS “unconquerable” after seeing first-hand how it was dealing with the pandemic and heralded the “personal courage” of everyone from doctors to cooks at St Thomas’.
He added: “We will win because our NHS is the beating heart of this country.
“It is the best of this country. It is unconquerable. It is powered by love.”
His comments came as it was confirmed the number of those who had died in UK hospitals after contracting Covid-19 had breached the 10,000 mark, in what Mr Hancock called a “sombre” moment for the country.
Sir Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that the UK looked set to have “one of the worst, if not the worst” death rate in Europe.
The formal review of the strict social distancing measures is due, as per the emergency powers legislation, to be reviewed by ministers on Thursday.
It is not known whether Mr Johnson will be well enough to take part in those discussions.
The 55-year-old praised the country’s efforts in following the “tough” social distancing rules over the Easter weekend and said the measures were “proving their worth” in protecting the NHS.
Downing Street said it would only look to lift restrictions once science and medical advisers recommended doing so.
But there is thought to be economic pressure to consider, with both the Telegraph and the Times reporting that Chancellor Rishi Sunak is set to unveil modelling to Cabinet colleagues about the impact that extending the lockdown could have.
The National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) think-tank produced a report suggesting 25% of the UK economy could be lost by the summer due to the current controls in place, and the Times reported that Mr Sunak has told colleagues GDP could fall by a third in the second quarter.
Business Secretary Alok Sharma, when asked about the NIESR report, told the Marr Show there would “no doubt” be economic repercussions following the lockdown measures.
“There is no doubt there is going to be a short-term impact in terms of borrowing rates,” he said.
“I think it is absolutely vital we put the support in now, so that when we come out the other side business are able to start very quickly.”
Mr Hancock on Sunday announced a new NHS coronavirus app that the Government hopes will help stem the spread of the virus by helping people to self-isolate before they start showing symptoms, as the Government looks to find a way out of the lockdown.
He said: “If you become unwell with the symptoms of coronavirus you can securely tell this new NHS app and the app will then send an alert anonymously to other app users that you’ve been in significant contact with over the past few days.”
Opposition parties, including Labour and the Liberal Democrats, have called for parliamentary scrutiny of the data use.
On Sunday the Department of Health said, as of 5pm on Saturday, a total of 10,612 patients had died in UK hospitals after testing positive for coronavirus, up by 737 from 9,875 the day before.