UK prepares for more virus deaths; Johnson reported stable

LONDON: The British prepared for Thursday for several more weeks in the running of the bulls, as they remained stable after three nights.

Johnson spokesman James Slack said the prime minister had a good night and continues to improve at St Thomas Hospital.

On Wednesday night, the government said Johnson, 55, was making steady progress and sitting up in bed. He has been receiving oxygen without being placed on a respirator since his COVID-19 symptoms worsened and he was admitted to an ICU.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who is replacing Johnson while ill, will chair a meeting of the government's COBRA crisis committee to discuss whether to extend restrictions on public activity and popular movements imposed on March 23 to try to slow the spread of the virus.

The original restrictions were for three weeks, a period ending Monday. But there is little chance that the stay-at-home order and business closings will be lifted. The restrictions could be tightened if people flock to parks and outdoor spaces during what is forecast to be a warm and sunny Easter weekend.

Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon said there was no chance that the blockade would be lifted immediately or even imminently.

He would not expect any change at today's COBRA meeting, he told Sky News.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said the curve (for new cases) is starting to flatten out.

This is the time when we must follow the path we have chosen, he told Sky News. The British people have really endorsed this. We shouldn't give up this Easter weekend, that's the number one thing.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild to moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for some, especially the elderly and the sick, it can cause pneumonia and, in some cases, death.

According to government figures, more than 7,000 people with the coronavirus have died in British hospitals. Although the number of new confirmed cases has begun to stabilize, deaths continue to rise and approach the peaks observed in Italy and Spain, the two countries with the highest number of deaths.

On Wednesday, the UK reported 938 new deaths, the largest increase in the country to date. Italy recorded a maximum of 969 deaths on March 27 and Spain 950 deaths on April 2.

However, the figures may not be directly comparable. Not all deaths reported in the UK each day occurred in the previous 24 hours, and the total only includes deaths in hospitals.

The Johnson government was slower than those in some European countries to impose restrictions on daily life in response to the pandemic, leading its critics to accuse it of complacency. Britain also had one of the lowest numbers of hospital beds per capita in Western Europe before the pandemic, with only around 5,000 intensive care beds across the country.

That number has increased dramatically in recent weeks, both by converting other hospital areas to treat COVID-19 patients and by building temporary facilities, including a 4,000-bed hospital at London's Excel conference center.

Until now, hospitals have been stretched but not overwhelmed, but some doctors say they are struggling and have not yet received adequate supplies of personal protective equipment or PPE.

We're still, overall, using the same equipment we had a few weeks ago, said Dr. Nishant Joshi, an emergency and accident doctor who works at a hospital in north London.

We are receiving a higher volume of patients, and they are worse off and probably more contagious, he said.

Therefore, it is fair to assume that the PPE we were working with was a situation of success and hope, a few weeks ago. It is fair to say that it is no longer adequate.

Slack, the prime minister's spokesman, said that we are confident that enough supply is reaching the front line and that the government was urgently working to fix any distribution problems with protective equipment.