Foreign secretary Dominic Raab has stepped in to lead the government’s efforts to tackle the coronavirus outbreak, after the prime minister was admitted to intensive care last night with a worsening case of the virus.
No.10 announced last night that Boris Johnson had been moved to the intensive care unit at St Thomas’s Hospital in London after his coronavirus symptoms worsened.
The decision was taken on the advice of the medical team which has been looking after the PM since he was admitted to hospital on Sunday night, Downing Street said.
Raab, who as first secretary of state is the prime minister’s de facto deputy, will now stand in for Johnson.
Raab has been fronting the daily Downing Street press conference on the government’s Covid-19 response in Johnson’s absence. At yesterday afternoon’s briefing he brushed aside suggestions that he would have to step in to take over the PM's responsibilities – although he admitted he had not spoken to him since Saturday.
He said: "The PM is in charge, he is leading the government and giving directions as and when required."
But speaking after Johnson was admitted to intensive care, Raab said: "During the course of this afternoon, the prime minister’s condition worsened and, on the advice of his medical team, he has been moved to a critical care unit at the hospital.
“In light of those circumstances, the prime minister asked me as first secretary of state to deputise for him where necessary in driving forward the government’s plans to defeat coronavirus.”
He added: “The focus of the government will continue to be on making sure that the prime minister's direction, all the plans for making sure that we can defeat coronavirus and can pull the country through this challenge, will be taken forward."
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove promised this morning that "No.10 will ensure the country is updated" if the prime minister's condition changes.
Appearing on BBC Radio 4 Today, Gove, who is self-isolating after a relative began showing Covid-19 symptoms, revealed Johnson had been following a "stripped back diary in order to make sure the appropriate medical advice was followed" before moving to the ICU.
Asked about the extent of Raab's authority in his absence, Gove said: "The prime minister always remains the prime minister.
He did not directly answer a question as to whether Raab would be able to hire and fire people, instead saying: "I don't think there's any suggestion other than a great team spirit in government as we work together at this time."