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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Suffering From COVID-19, Moved To ICU


To London now, where we have this news tonight. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been moved to the intensive care unit of a London hospital. He's being treated there for COVID-19. After first trying to cope with the symptoms at home, Johnson was admitted to St. Thomas' Hospital on Sunday. And today his condition worsened. He was moved to the critical care unit. Let me bring in NPR's Frank Langfitt in London.

And, Frank, what exactly are we being told about the prime minister's condition?

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Not a lot, Mary Louise, just that he's been moved into the ICU in case he needs a ventilator. Downing Street says he is conscious, so they, obviously, felt that was something they needed to make clear. And we don't know a lot more. St Thomas' is a hospital just across Westminster Bridge, very close to No. 10 Downing St., across from Big Ben. It has been designated for handling COVID-19 patients, and so that is the logical place for him to be with a lot of specialists in the ICU there.

KELLY: OK; so many questions, starting with, who is running the country with the prime minister in intensive care?

LANGFITT: Well, Downing Street says that the prime minister has deputized Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to handle some of the day-to-day business of government and the COVID-19 response. The - naturally, this is supposed to be temporary while Johnson recovers in the hospital. Now, Raab chaired the COVID-19 meeting this morning for the government. And at a press conference this afternoon, Raab said he talked to Johnson back on Saturday and said that Johnson had been in good spirits. People were struck, given the importance of Raab in this whole great governmental equation here, that he hadn't been in touch sooner - or more recently, rather. Raab is a capable - he's a Brexiteer - capable politician from Surrey, which is a county just outside of London.

KELLY: I do want to ask about Boris Johnson's partner. I know that they're expecting a baby. Do we know how she's doing?

LANGFITT: Yeah, her name is Carrie Symonds, Boris Johnson's fiancee. They are planning to marry, but I guess it'll be quite some time, given everything that's going on in the country right now. She did have COVID-19 symptoms, but she says that she's doing much better. And so that's good news. As you would remember, you know, COVID-19 has really ripped through the government here. Chris Whitty - he's the chief medical officer. He just appeared at a press conference today, having disappeared for a long time with COVID-19 systems. Matt Hancock, the public - the secretary of Health - he was gone for a week, so it's been knocking people down. And then, fortunately, they've been coming back.

KELLY: Yeah. And with Boris Johnson himself, just how has this progressed? I was looking - he was tweeting earlier today that he was in good spirits. He was tweeting from the hospital.

LANGFITT: Yeah. Well, I don't, you know...

KELLY: He seemed to have only have mild symptoms. What happened?

LANGFITT: Well, I think, Mary Louise, I think the public here has been a lot more concerned about this over the last 10 days, naturally. They've seen this very gregarious, populist-kind of politician who loves to press the flesh, loves to get out there - 10 days ago, he said he had a persistent cough and a high fever. He disappeared from the press conferences, which was a bad sign. He no longer did live public speeches. He just put out a few cell videos. When he came out last Thursday at No. 10 Downing St. to cheer on the nurses, he looked really sick. You could tell that he had, you know, heavy flu-like symptoms. And, of course, what happened today, I think, has confirmed the worst fears of people in this country.

KELLY: Yeah. And just in the few seconds we have left, Frank, just update us. Overall, where does the situation stand with COVID-19 in the U.K?

LANGFITT: The death number now is nearly 5,400 people. This is bad timing. The government does not have the testing capacity that it needs to really make a move forward. And at this press conference today, they were not really even willing to talk too much about the strategy they have for lifting the lockdown and moving forward.

KELLY: NPR's Frank Langfitt reporting there from London.

Thank you, Frank.

LANGFITT: You're very welcome, Mary Louise. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Frank Langfitt is NPR's London correspondent. He covers the UK and Ireland, as well as stories elsewhere in Europe.