Prime Minister Boris Johnson continued to make progress, four days after being admitted to hospital with COVID-19, but he remained in intensive care as officials signalled there was no end in sight to an unprecedented national lockdown.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said this at a news conference in Downing Street on Thursday.
Johnson, 55, was admitted to St Thomas’ Hospital on Sunday evening with a persistent high temperature and cough, and was rushed to intensive care on Monday where he has since spent three nights receiving treatment.
Ministers have said he has been sitting up in bed and talking to medical staff.
“He’s still in intensive care but he continues to make positive steps forward and he’s in good spirits,” Raab said.
Raab, who is deputising for Johnson during the most stringent shutdown in Britain’s peacetime history, said he had not spoken to the prime minister since he was admitted to intensive care.
“I think it’s important, particularly while he’s in intensive care, to let him focus on the recovery. We in the government have got this covered,” Raab said.
Earlier on Thursday, a Downing Street spokesman said Johnson had received oxygen support, but was not put on a ventilator.
The UK death toll in hospitals from coronavirus now stands at 7,978, a rise of 881 on the day but a smaller increase than the 938 seen in Wednesday’s data.
With Johnson absent and the death toll still mounting, the British government is wrestling with two major issues – how to finance a vast increase in state spending to support the shuttered economy, and when to start easing lockdown measures.
With the economy facing potentially the worst hit since World War Two, the government said it had expanded its overdraft facility with the Bank of England.
The central bank has agreed temporarily to finance government borrowing in response to COVID-19 if funds cannot immediately be raised from debt markets, reviving a measure last widely used during the 2008 financial crisis.
The BoE said it was a short-term measure and both it and government said any borrowing from the Ways and Means facility – effectively the government’s overdraft with the Bank – would be repaid by the end of the year.
The government has made pledges costing tens of billions of pounds to support businesses and workers hit by the virus.
On Thursday, the government said an additional 1.2 million claims for welfare payments had been filed since March 16.