UK's Johnson in ICU with coronavirus, condition improving

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Police officers stand outside St Thomas' Hospital in the background in central London, where Prime Minister Boris Johnson remains in intensive care as his coronavirus symptoms persist, Wednesday April 8, 2020. Johnson has spent his second night in hospital intensive care. The highly contagious COVID-19 coronavirus has impacted on nations around the globe, many imposing self isolation and exercising social distancing when people move from their homes. (Dominic Lipinski/PA via AP)

LONDON – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson remains in intensive care with the coronavirus but is improving and sitting up in bed, a senior government minister said Wednesday, as the U.K. recorded its biggest spike in COVID-19 deaths to date.

Johnson, the first world leader diagnosed with the disease, has spent two nights in the ICU at St. Thomas' Hospital in London.

“The latest from the hospital is the prime minister remains in intensive care where his condition is improving,” Sunak said at a news conference. “I can also tell you that he has been sitting up in bed and engaging positively with the clinical team.”

That glimmer of good news came as the number of COVID-19-related deaths in Britain approached the peaks seen in Italy and Spain, the two countries with the greatest number of fatalities.

Britain's confirmed death toll reached 7,097 on Wednesday, an increase of 938 from 24 hours earlier. Italy recorded a high of 969 deaths on March 27 and Spain 950 deaths on April 2.

The figures may not be directly comparable, however. Not all the U.K. deaths reported each day occurred in the preceding 24 hours, and the total only includes deaths in hospitals.

The government's deputy chief scientific adviser, Angela McLean, said that despite the grim death figures, the number of new cases “is not accelerating out of control ... and that is good news."

Johnson, 55, is the most high-profile of more than 60,000 people in Britain who have been confirmed to have the virus.