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Tuesday, Dec 01, 2020

Boris Johnson 'stable' in hospital and does not have pneumonia, Downing Street says

Follow the latest developments as we wait for updates on the condition of the prime minister after his coronavirus symptoms worsened, here is a full summary of the Downing Street lobby briefing.
Boris Johnson does not have pneumonia, Downing Street has said. Until now ministers and No 10 have refused to give a clear answer to this question. But asked if the PM has been diagnosed with pneumonia, the PM’s spokesman said: “That is not the case, no.”

The spokesman said that Johnson was “stable” overnight and “remains in good spirits”.
Downing Street has signalled that it does not want to take up Donald Trump’s offer of experimental coronavirus drugs for Boris Johnson.

Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, would take over if Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary who is deputising for the PM, got ill, the spokesman said. The spokesman said there was an established order of precedence in the government.

After Raab, Sunak, is the next most senior person in the government, the spokesman said. (The spokesman sidestepped a question about who was next in seniority, and “how long it would take before Thérèse Coffey took charge”, but the order of precedence is normally the order in which ministers are listed on the official No 10 website. In theory, after Sunak, Priti Patel, the home secretary, and Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, are next in seniority - in that order. Coffey is 11th on the list.)

Raab does not have the authority to “hire and fire” people in government while he is deputising for the PM, the spokesman said.

The spokesman played down the prospect of the government announcing plans for an exit strategy from the lockdown anytime soon. He said that no was not the time to focus on this.

The spokesman refused to say when the government would announce whether or not the lockdown measures are being extended. When they were announced by the PM, they were scheduled to run for a three-week period which will be over next Monday. The spokesman said that announcement about whether they would be extended would not necessarily come that day. He did not rule out it happening this week.

He claimed there was no legal need for the lockdown to be renewed. [This is true in the short term, but the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020, which give legal force to the lockdown measures in England, do have to be reviewed every 21 days, with the first review due by 16 April. And the regulations expire after six months.]

The spokesman refused to speculate on suggestions that schools could be opened before other lockdown measures are reversed (a proposal backed by University College London research published today).

The spokesman rejected claims that the PM was getting special treatment at the St Thomas’ Hospital. When asked about claims that a ventilator was being set aside for the PM, the spokesman said there was “significant spare capacity” available in hospitals, including ventilators.

The spokesman rejected claims that No 10 has not been fully frank with the media about the PM’s health. “We have a commitment to be as transparent as we can be throughout this process,” the spokesman said.
We have been fully frank with you throughout.

We have issued you with regular updates on the prime minister’s health.

His condition worsened yesterday afternoon. A decision was taken that he needed to be moved to an intensive care unit at around 7pm.

We informed you all as soon as was practically possible. We have a commitment to be as transparent as we can be throughout this process.

The spokesman said Raab would be able to authorise military action in the PM’s absence. The spokesman said that, if a national security council was needed, Raab would chair it in the PM’s absence. There was a robust national security architecture in place, the spokesman said. And he said it had the authority and ability to respond to a military threat in the PM’s absence.

The spokesman said Johnson had not spoken to Raab today.

Raab will not participate on the PM’s behalf in the weekly audience with the Queen, the spokesman said. The spokesman said that it has been agreed with Buckingham Palace that these weekly audiences will be suspended while the PM is ill.

The spokesman said Raab was feeling fine.
Sir Mark Sedwill, the cabinet secretary, is working as usual, the spokesman said. But he said Dominic Cummings, the PM’s chief adviser, was still staying away from the office. Asked about the shortage of staff in No 10, the spokesman said it was “fully operational”.

Dominic Raab will lead the press conference later at 5pm. He will be joined by Prof Chris Whitty, the government’s chief medical adviser, and Prof Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser.
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