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Boris Johnson pays tribute to hospital medics saying ‘I can’t thank them enough’ and friends reveal he came close to death

Boris Johnson pays tribute to hospital medics saying ‘I can’t thank them enough’ and friends reveal he came close to death – as coronavirus claims 917 UK lives in 24 hours.

Boris Johnson came close to death as he desperately fought coronavirus in an intensive care unit, his friends revealed last night.

After rallying, the Prime Minister told them that he owed his life to the doctors and nurses at St Thomas’ Hospital in London, adding: ‘I can’t thank them enough.’

The Mail on Sunday today reveals the extraordinary battle to save the stricken PM by medics who had been expecting him in hospital three days before he was finally admitted last Sunday.

At one point, Mr Johnson’s plight was so grave that Cabinet Ministers and aides prayed for him. While in hospital, Mr Johnson has been boosted by a love letter from his fiancee, Carrie Symonds, which included a scan of their unborn child.

The Prime Minister plans to recuperate at Chequers after his release from hospital but, with a further 979 coronavirus deaths announced yesterday, bringing the total in the UK to 9,937, his allies insist he will control the vital process of when – and how – Britain emerges from the lockdown.

Speaking at the daily press conference yesterday, Home Secretary Priti Patel said: ‘It is vital that our Prime Minister gets well. We want him to get better and he needs time and space to rest, recuperate and recover.’

The PM’s steady recovery came as fears grew of a surge in deaths. Ministers have been warned that coronavirus is now affecting more than 15 per cent of care homes, with many deaths in the social care sector not included in the current total.

Meanwhile, the Government apologised for a lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for health workers after medical groups accused Health Secretary Matt Hancock of implying that it had been wasted.

Announcing that 19 NHS workers had died since the Covid-19 outbreak began, Mr Hancock said he didn’t want to put ‘blame on people who have used more PPE than the guidelines suggest because I understand the difficulties in the circumstances. What I would say it is very important to use the right PPE and not overuse it.’

In separate developments yesterday:

  • The Queen stressed the importance of maintaining the coronavirus lockdown, but insisted: ‘Easter isn’t cancelled; indeed, we need Easter as much as ever’; 
  • Police faced renewed criticism for being heavy-handed as it emerged that 1,084 fines have been issued for breaches of coronavirus lockdown rules; 
  • Cabinet Ministers are divided between the ‘hawks’ who want Britain to leave lockdown early in May and the ‘doves’ who want to delay lifting the restrictions until the summer; 
  • This newspaper has found that the laboratory in Wuhan at the centre of scrutiny over Covid-19 carried out research on bats from a cave that scientists believe is the original source of the pandemic; 
  • A leading Tory MP accused a China-backed company of seeking to exploit the crisis to ‘launch a raid on British technology’; 
  • A new ‘online school’ is being planned to cater for children facing months out of the classroom as Minister plan a ‘phased return’ for some pupils after half-term;
  • Ms Patel said domestic violence had risen by 120 per cent last week, but overall crime was down 21 per cent since the lockdown began; 
  • John Humphrys, the former presenter of Radio 4’s Today programme, claimed BBC bosses were privately telling interviewers to go easy on Ministers when quizzing them about the virus; 
  • Former Home Secretary David Blunkett railed against the daily briefings from No10 which he said were ‘little more than a daily Sermon on the Mount’. 

Taking questions during her first appearance at the daily virus press conference yesterday, Ms Patel was challenged about the shortage of PPE.

She said: ‘I’m sorry if people feel that there have been failings. I will be very, very clear about that, but at the same time, we are in an unprecedented global health pandemic right now.

‘It is inevitable that the demand for PPE and the pressures on PPE are going to be exponential. They are going to be incredibly high. And of course we are trying to address that as a Government.’

Dame Donna Kinnair, General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said no piece of PPE could ever be ‘more precious a resource than a healthcare worker’s life, a nurse’s life, a doctor’s life’.

Hinting that Parliament may have to be convened virtually, Ms Patel admitted: ‘There are many discussions and I can’t really elaborate any further on those discussions about how Parliament will resume and function’.

Meanwhile, America reached an unwanted milestone as it became the first country in the world to record more than 2,000 deaths in a single day. Brazil became the first in the southern hemisphere to exceed 1,000 in a 24-hour period.

By contrast, Sweden – which has rejected tough social distancing measures – recorded just 17 new deaths from coronavirus, its lowest daily rise in a fortnight.

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