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Johnson's lack of medical treatment prior to entering hospital criticised by half-brother


Precaution: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson had tweeted he was in ‘good spirits’ hours before being moved into intensive care. Photo: PA Wire

Precaution: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson had tweeted he was in ‘good spirits’ hours before being moved into intensive care. Photo: PA Wire

Precaution: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson had tweeted he was in ‘good spirits’ hours before being moved into intensive care. Photo: PA Wire

The half-brother of Boris Johnson yesterday criticised the medical treatment the UK prime minister received before he was admitted to hospital suffering from coronavirus last week.

The British PM first announced he tested positive for the novel coronavirus on March 27. He said he was experiencing "mild symptoms" and would continue leading the country - while self-isolating in his apartment in Downing Street. But 10 days later, Downing Street announced the 55-year-old was not getting better and was taken to St Thomas' Hospital in London. He was moved to an intensive care unit (ICU) the next day after his condition deteriorated.

Reports in today's Sunday Telegraph appear to confirm that while Johnson "was in daily contact with his doctor by phone", there was no personal examination.

"From what I gather - and I wasn't there - no one asked a doctor to mask up and physically examine him the whole time - more than 10 days," Max Johnson said about the time his brother spent in self-isolation.

All week long he led video meetings of his cabinet from the Chancellor's study upstairs in No 11 Downing Street, in which he had set up camp - while Rishi Sunak self-isolated at his family home. Staff erected hazard signs outside the room and meals and the prime ministerial red box were left at the door.

Johnson spoke to his doctor again on Sunday afternoon and was told that he should go to hospital as soon as possible - advice that he conveyed to senior aides. In a telephone call with Lee Cain (his long-time director of communications) he confirmed that Dominic Raab, the UK Foreign Secretary, should chair the morning meetings in his absence and deputise for him more widely if his condition worsened.

Johnson was driven the short distance to St Thomas' Hospital across the river from Westminster, and admitted at 8pm accompanied by protection officers. Aides insist that the timing, coming at the start of the broadcast of Queen Elizabeth's message, was a coincidence - despite claims he had deliberately held off so as to avoid over-shadowing the monarch's appeal for the country to follow lockdown rules.

In response to Max Johnson's comments, Downing Street yesterday described Boris Johnson's health as a "private matter" adding it would be "inaccurate" to suggest Johnson hadn't been physically examined by a doctor "before entering hospital".

As Johnson continues to recover, one expert has suggested he is likely to feel as if he has been "hit by several buses" and will need time to recover from Covid-19.

Becoming ill enough to warrant a stay in intensive care leaves a patient "weak and exhausted" for a "significant" period of time, according to a consultant virologist.

Dr Chris Smith, from the University of Cambridge, who is also presenter of the Naked Scientists podcast, said that, when Johnson is fit enough to be discharged from hospital, it is likely he will do so with instructions to take it easy for several weeks.

The comments came as Johnson's father, Stanley, said his son "almost took one for the team" and will need a period of rest before he can "pick up the reins" at Number 10.

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The prime minister has returned to a ward at St Thomas' Hospital in London after spending three nights in intensive care being treated for symptoms of the coronavirus.

Johnson was again said to be in "very good spirits" after being discharged from the ICU, Downing Street has said.

In the latest medical update, a No 10 spokesman said: "The prime minister has been able to do short walks, between periods of rest, as part of the care he is receiving to aid his recovery."

Dr Smith told reporters that Mr Johnson is likely to be feeling "like he's been hit by several buses".

"Being severely unwell and sufficiently ill to warrant ITU admission really takes it out of you and leaves people weak and exhausted for a significant period of time afterwards," he said.

However, as Johnson is younger, was in good health, and had not needed to be put on a ventilator "he is likely to be able to bounce back more quickly", Dr Smith said.

He added: "It'll still be a few weeks before he's feeling like his old self though."

Doctors and nurses will be aiming to get Johnson home as soon as possible, Dr Smith said. "To make this decision they'll monitor respiratory function and other vital signs and, if he's stable and continuing to improve - no evidence of ongoing infection, or other secondary infections - and not oxygen-dependent, including at night, then he'll go home with instructions to take it easy for at least several weeks to recover," he suggested.

Dr Smith added that it takes at least a week to recover for every day that someone has been in intensive care, and advice to patients includes staying active, eating and drinking well, and building up strength gradually.

In an interview last Friday, Mr Johnson's father said the whole family is "amazingly grateful" for the efforts of the NHS and for the huge outpouring of support for his son.

He told BBC that his son's illness had underlined the seriousness of the pandemic.

"To use that American expression, he almost took one for the team. We have got to make sure we play the game properly now," he said.

His comments are likely to be taken as a further indication that UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab will continue to deputise for the PM in the coming days.

Professor Duncan Young, an ICU consultant, said staff will be monitoring his need for oxygen, and assessing when he is able to go home.

He said: "My guess is he is now on a normal oxygen face mask. That's the point when it is likely someone is discharged from ICU."

As well as being able to breathe without added oxygen, doctors and nurses will be looking to see if Mr Johnson is able to do things for himself, such as walk and eat.

Prof Young said it is "almost impossible to know" how long it will take for Johnson to resume his normal activities.

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