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Boris Johnson is out of ICU, UK extends lockdown as toll continues to rise

PM Boris Johnson remains in hospital for close monitoring during the early phase of his recovery but he is in extremely good spirits.

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London: Boris Johnson was released from intensive care Thursday evening after his deputy said it’s too soon for the U.K. to relax the lockdown imposed 17 days ago in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The U.K. premier remains in the hospital “where he will receive close monitoring during the early phase of his recovery,” from coronavirus, his office said in an emailed statement Thursday evening. “He is in extremely good spirits.”

Speaking earlier before the start of a four-day Easter break, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab signaled Britain needs to maintain stringent curbs on the movement of people imposed to stop the spread of the disease.

“We’re not done yet, we must keep going,” Raab said in a televised briefing in London on Thursday. “Deaths are still rising, and we still haven’t seen the peak of the virus. So it’s still too early to lift the measures that we’ve put in place. We must stick to the plan.”

With good weather forecast for much of the long weekend, ministers are anxious to avoid scenes of people gathering in groups in parks, beaches and beauty spots. The government rolled out an advertising campaign on social media and in print urging Britons to stay home, protect the National Health Service and save lives over the Easter break.

Raab spoke after the death toll from the virus rose by a further 881 to bring the total to 7,978. Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, warned he expects the number of deaths to increase for “a few weeks” yet.

When the U.K. imposed sweeping restrictions on movement on March 23, Johnson said the measures would be reviewed in three weeks — a deadline that falls on Monday. The lockdown has brought the economy to a near halt, and triggered a surge in the number of people claiming welfare payments for the first time.

Still, the number of deaths from the virus has continued to increase, and government scientists say they don’t have enough data yet to show the restrictions are having enough of an effect to justify being relaxed.

Also read: Rising new infections in Europe is casting a cloud over ending lockdowns

Johnson’s Health

Johnson, 55, announced he was isolating with coronavirus on March 27, and was admitted to St. Thomas’s hospital in London on April 5 after struggling to shake off the symptoms. He was moved to intensive care the following evening when his condition worsened, and was given oxygen but not put on a ventilator.

Raab, who has deputized for Johnson since the premier was transferred to critical care, wouldn’t say how long he expects the restrictions will be extended for. He said the government would analyze the data next week.

Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty pointed to one positive sign — the rate of confirmed infections has slowed. Instead of doubling every three days, they are now taking six days or more, he said.

Raab said that while the “early signs” are that the lockdown is having the desired effect of slowing the spread of the virus, “it’s too early to say that conclusively.”

Raab later held a call with Whitty, Vallance and the leaders of the U.K.’s opposition parties to update them on the government’s response to the coronavirus crisis. The government described the call, which included the new Labour Party leader, Keir Starmer, as “constructive.”

Starmer, for his part, called on the government to publish its strategy for exiting the current lockdown, according to his office.-Bloomberg

Also read: With pots, pans and bagpipies, Britons are ‘clapping’ every Thursday for healthcare workers

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