LONDON — U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has revealed that doctors prepared to announce his death as he battled coronavirus, ending up in intensive care, last month.
Johnson said that he was given “litres and litres of oxygen” to keep him alive as he recounted his life-or-death experience with the virus.
“It was a tough old moment, I won’t deny it,” the prime minister, who only days ago announced the birth of his son with partner Carrie Symonds, said in an emotional interview to Britain’s The Sun on Sunday newspaper. “They had a strategy.”
Johnson, 55, said he was aware there were contingency plans in place after he became the first western leader to be hospitalized for COVID-19, the disease the virus causes. Britain’s Foreign secretary Dominic Raab had to deputize for the PM and steer the country’s response to the pandemic while he was in hospital.
“The doctors had all sorts of arrangements for what to do if things went badly wrong,” Johnson said.
He admitted he initially brushed off the seriousness of the situation when he tested positive for the virus in late March, saying he was “in denial” and kept working. But he was thankful that his doctors “forced” him to go to the hospital.
When his health deteriorated further, Johnson was moved into intensive care, shocking the nation in the midst of a lockdown.
“The bad moment came when it was 50-50 whether they were going to have to put a tube down my windpipe,” Johnson said. “That was when it got a bit . . . they were starting to think about how to handle it presentationally.”
After his ordeal, Johnson credit the country’s health care service, NHS, for his recovery, dedicating one of his newborn son’s names to two doctors who treated him.
“I felt so lucky because so many people have suffered so much more than I did,” he said.
Johnson is now back to his regular duties at 10 Downing Street and is, once again, in control of the country’s response to the outbreak that has claimed 28,131 lives in the U.K. as of Saturday — a death toll that’s just slightly lower than in hard-hit Italy.
He is expected to reveal his plan for how the nation will gradually exit the lockdown and restart its economy later this week.