U.K.’s Boris Johnson receives oxygen treatment, is in stable condition with coronavirus

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks at a press conference
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson gives a press conference March 17 about the coronavirus outbreak. Johnson himself has contracted COVID-19.
(Matt Dunham / Associated Press)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, hospitalized with the coronavirus, remained in an intensive-care unit overnight but was in stable condition, was not on a ventilator and wasn’t suffering from pneumonia, a spokesman for his office said Tuesday.

The prime minister’s office said Tuesday that, aside from receiving oxygen treatment, Johnson was “breathing without any other assistance.” It added that the British leader was stable and “in good spirits.”

Asked whether Johnson had been diagnosed with pneumonia, not uncommon for patients sick enough to be hospitalized for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, a spokesman for the prime minister’s office said, “That is not the case, no.”


Oxygen treatment is a standard treatment for respiratory distress caused by COVID-19. The most serious cases require intubation and use of a ventilator that mechanically carries out some or all of a patient’s breathing functions. Johnson, 55, has not needed a ventilator, the prime minister’s office said.

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Britain has been hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak, with more than 5,300 deaths reported. A number of people in Johnson’s inner circle have also fallen ill or suspect they have been exposed to the virus, including senior Cabinet minister Michael Gove, who said Tuesday he was self-isolating after a family member experienced mild symptoms.

Johnson was admitted to the hospital Sunday evening and moved to intensive care about 24 hours later. Messages of support for the premier, the first known head of government to be seriously sickened by the virus, poured in from world leaders, political colleagues and ordinary Britons.

Concerns mounted, however, as to whether Johnson’s aides had sought to minimize the seriousness of his condition. His office initially described his hospitalization as being for “tests,” and a tweet from his account hours before his transfer to the ICU said he was in good spirits.

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Before being hospitalized, Johnson deputized his foreign minister, Dominic Raab, to handle government affairs as needed. Raab, 46, said late Monday that “the government’s business will continue.” Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, said Johnson was receiving “the very, very best care” possible from medical personnel at St. Thomas’ Hospital, just across the Thames from Johnson’s official Downing Street residence. But Gove said the virus “has a malevolence that is truly frightening.”

Johnson’s fiancée, Carrie Symonds, who is pregnant, has said she is recovering from coronavirus symptoms.

President Trump, speaking to reporters at the White House, on Monday night called Johnson “strong, resolute” and said the prime minister “doesn’t quit, doesn’t give up.” French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted his support for the ailing prime minister, his family and Britons “at this difficult time.” The Kremlin said Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a telegram telling Johnson that his “energy, optimism and sense of humor will help combat the disease.”