British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is currently being treated in an intensive care unit with the coronavirus after being rushed to a London hospital last night.
His Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is to fill in for him “where necessary”, according to a Downing Street spokesperson.
“The PM is receiving excellent care, and thanks all NHS staff for their hard work and dedication,” the spokesperson said.
Johnson was taken to St Thomas’s Hospital late on Sunday night, ostensibly “for tests”. Ten days after admitting he is positive for coronavirus, Downing Street has not confirmed that he is suffering from suspected pneumonia.
The deterioration in the Prime Minister’s condition comes as the epidemic enters what is expected to be its most intense phase in Britain.
Johnson recently backed away from his highly controversial strategy of prioritising economic activity throughout the pandemic, at the potential cost of hundreds of thousands of lives. However his u-turn came too late to prevent the illness afflicting himself and scores of leading Tories.
Overall, Britain’s death toll so far has reached 5,303. After two weeks of ‘lock down’, the death rate now appears to be easing slightly. London remains a major epicentre for the disease in Europe.
In Ireland, twenty-three people diagnosed with coronavirus died today, bringing the number of deaths due to the virus here to 244. Seventy of these were in the Six Counties.
The number of confirmed cases of the virus has reached 6,522, mostly concentrated in the Dublin area.
According to figures released today, the number of hospitals where the disease is spreading has increased from 37 to 43. The number of serious outbreaks of the virus in nursing homes has increased again to 57, and there is also a growing number of cases in residential institutions, where 26 serious outbreaks have now been reported.
It has also been revealed that the Taoiseach has rejoined the medical register. An appeal was issued last month for all healthcare professionals not working in the profession to register in order to fill in for healthcare workers falling ill. A qualified doctor, Leo Varadkar is to work on a phone bank once a week to help out in the crisis.
In Belfast, mass testing of healthcare staff has begun at the SSE events arena. Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill said there would be a “rapid scaling up” of testing, and that they were expanding the categories of those who would be eligible.
She said: “We are moving into Easter weekend, the weather is getting fine. Please don’t treat it as a holiday. Let’s keep going, we still have to fight right through until we get out the other side of this.”
She added: “We are doing it to try to save lives.”
All Easter commemorative events by republican groups have been cancelled due to the coronavirus.
For its part, the Orange Order announced today that the annual Twelfth of July parades have been cancelled. ‘Grand Master’ Edward Stevenson admitted today that gathering hundreds of thousands of Orangemen and loyalist supporters to celebrate a Protestant battle victory in 1690 “would not be responsible”.