- The British government said Johnson received oxygen during the day, but is breathing without assistance.
- Imperial College, London predicts a minimum of 20,000 dead, as long as the government maintains the harsh restrictive measures.
- A month ago, Johnson approached the coronavirus crisis in a relaxed way.
The United Kingdom recorded 5,491 new cases of coronavirus and 938 deaths in the last 24 hours. Both figures show that the pandemic is accelerating in the country. The focus of the coronavirus crisis in thee country is the health of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who remains in intensive care at London’s St. Thomas Hospital.
The British government said Johnson received oxygen during the day, but is breathing without assistance. Johnson’s condition is stable and he “remains in good spirits,” his spokesperson said. They added he did not require a ventilator and does not have pneumonia.
The statistical model of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), a research center at the University of Washington, predicts that the UK will be the most-affected country in Europe, and will have 40 % of total deaths on the continent. These figures will reach 66,000 in August, with a peak of up to 3,000 deaths per day, based on the progress of the disease at the beginning of the pandemic. The model has been used by the White House and several governments around the world.
The United Kingdom would reach the peak of the outbreak on April 17th, according to the IHME, when the country would need at least 102,000 hospital beds. The British healthcare system has only 18,000 available. The country will also not have enough ICU spaces and respirators for everyone, according to data from the University of Washington.
Many British analysts, however, prefer to adopt the model of Imperial College, London, which shows a less catastrophic scenario. They predict a minimum of 20,000 dead, as long as the government maintains the harsh restrictive measures. “The IHME model does not apply to the UK,” said Neil Ferguson, a professor at Imperial College, responsible for the study that convinced Johnson to declare quarantine in the country on the March 23rd.
The Prime Minister, who was diagnosed with coronavirus two weeks ago, remains in the ICU. “He has been receiving standard oxygen treatment and breathing without any other help,” said a government spokesman. The 55-year-old Prime Minister was admitted on Sunday to undergo tests. On Monday, his health deteriorated, and he was transferred to the ICU.
The news caused a stir in the United Kingdom, among government officials and opponents. With Johnson out of action, the government was led by Foreign Minister Dominic Raab. A month ago, Johnson approached the coronavirus crisis in a relaxed way. At a news conference on March 3rd, he boasted that he “shook hands with everyone” after visiting a hospital where nineteen patients were being treated with COVID-19, and said he intended to continue doing so.
Two days later, the United Kingdom announced its first death. It was enough for Johnson on March 12th to call the pandemic “the worst public health crisis in a generation,” and to warn of the possibility that many Britons would lose relatives. Even so, the strategy diverged from the radical measures adopted by other European countries, where confinement was already in place.
To the journalists, Johnson repeated his recommendation to wash their hands thoroughly “for as long as it takes to sing ‘Happy Birthday to You’ twice.” The elderly, those over 70, are more vulnerable to the coronavirus.
Johnson’s strategy was to achieve so-called “herd immunity,” when most Britons would have contracted the virus and would be immune to the disease. But, in the face of growing criticism, and especially after the Imperial College study, he changed his mind. The data predicted 250,000 deaths without social distancing measures and 20,000 under a strict lockdown.
The isolation, however, happened in slow motion. On March 16th, Johnson asked the population to avoid “non-essential” social contact and unnecessary travel, and to do remote work when possible. On the 20th, he gave orders to close schools, bars, restaurants, cinemas, and gyms. Only on the 23rd, he ordered a three-week confinement. Even so, he held face-to-face meetings with the cabinet.
Four days later, on the 27th, Johnson took everyone by surprise when he announced that he had tested positive for COVID-19. According to the Prime Minister, his symptoms were “mild,” and he would be isolated in the official residence in Downing Street, commanding the country by videoconference.
Doubts about his ability to continue to fulfill his obligations have multiplied. On Saturday, his fiancee, Carrie Symonds, 32, who is pregnant but is not with the Prime Minister, said she was recovering after a week in bed with the symptoms of the disease.