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expert reaction to news Boris Johnson has been admitted to hospital for tests as a precautionary step, having persistent symptoms of COVID-19

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister announced last night that he has been admitted to hospital over night for tests, due to his persistent COVID-19 symptoms. 


Prof Jonathan Ball, Professor of Molecular Virology, University of Nottingham, said:

“Clearly the prime minister is finding it difficult to shake this thing off.  What it does show is how difficult it is to predict how this infection will develop, and whilst most people will experience nothing more than an annoying cold, for others this can develop into a serious and sometimes life-threatening disease.  Initial reports suggest that this measure is purely precautionary.  Let’s hope so.  I’m sure we will all wish the prime minister a speedy recovery.”


Prof Derek Hill, Professor of Medical Imaging Science, Department of Medical Physics & Biomedical Engineering, UCL, said:

“We don’t know exactly why the PM has gone to hospital except we have been told he is having tests.

“Many people attending hospital with Covid-19 have difficulty breathing.  One test performed on these people is imaging of the lung, with ultrasound or CT scans, to get an indication of how badly their lungs are affected.  Some people are rapidly discharged.  Some others can quickly deteriorate and need help breathing.  We have no reason to believe the PM needs such help.  But there are various types of breathing help, depending on the breathing difficulties.  Some patients can manage with the help of oxygen, others with more serious breathing problems end up being put on a ventilator that breathes for them.  This can involve heavy sedation and sometimes the patient needs to be paralysed.

“The reasons some people get seriously ill with Covid-19 while others have minor symptoms is not yet fully understood.  But doctors managing these patients report that more men than women have serious problems, and patients who are overweight or have previous health problems are at higher risk.”


Dr Rupert Beale, Group Leader, Cell Biology of Infection Laboratory, Francis Crick Institute, said:

“Doctors will be monitoring important vital signs such as oxygen saturations.  They will also check blood tests to see what the immune response to the virus looks like, and to assess liver and kidney function.  They will perform an electrocardiogram (ECG) to check the heart.  More sophisticated tests may include a CT scan of the chest to get an accurate picture of the lungs.  They will consider the best way to deliver oxygen, and will also consider other treatments depending on test results.

“We are in a struggle between humanity and a deadly virus.  Whatever your politics, we are all on the same side.  I wish the Prime Minister a speedy recovery.”


Dr Bharat Pankhania, Senior Clinical Lecturer, University of Exeter Medical School, said:

Why do some people need hospital care and others recover with mild symptoms; do we know?

“The general pattern is that, people with coexisting comorbidities tend to fare worse, it just about tips them over into needing support.  Thus the older age group, starting from above 60 years old, they seem to show much more severe illness.  It is in line with the adage that as we get older, we also pick up comorbidities along the way.

“However, this is not universal and as we know, fit and young people can also end up needing critical care support.

Does this mean he has pneumonia or not necessarily?

“It is hard to tell, it may be just precautionary, if a patients is developing pneumonia, it can get progressively worse very quickly and hence early admission upon the first signs of difficulty with breathing are very import and hence it is important for people recovering at home that there be a monitoring system in place too.  Something that we have thus far not introduced.

What sort of care do people receive in hospital when admitted with COVID-19?

“Simple oxygen support, to oxygen via mask and in some cases ventilatory support, they may also introduce prophylactic medicines too.  The plan is to enable oxygen exchange, enable the lungs to recover and whilst they are recovering we give a much higher does of oxygen to them as a tool to assist with keeping patients adequately oxygenated and prevent damage to other organs too.

What proportion of people who have COVID-19 tend to need hospital treatment?

“We do not have the full range of data on this matter, estimates show that it would be in the range 5 to 10%.”


All our previous output on this subject can be seen at this weblink:


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