British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, perhaps the world’s best-known coronavirus patient, was released from a London hospital Sunday, nearly a week after he was admitted to the intensive care unit with complications from the coronavirus.
“I have today left hospital after a week in which the NHS [National Health Service] has saved my life,” Johnson, 55, said in a video statement. “It’s hard to find words to express my debt.”
The news came shortly before the health department reported 737 more coronavirus deaths in the past 24 hours, raising Britain’s total above 10,000.
Johnson will continue his recovery at Chequers, the official country home of the prime minister, and will not yet return to work, a spokesman for 10 Downing Street said. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has been deputized to lead the government in Johnson’s absence.
“On the advice of his medical team, the PM will not be immediately returning to work,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement. “He wishes to thank everybody at St. Thomas’ for the brilliant care he has received. All of his thoughts are with those affected by this illness.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said there was no timeline for how long the prime minister would remain at Chequers. He tolda news conference it was up to the doctors.
Johnson was admitted to St. Thomas’ Hospital a week ago, 10 days after he had fallen ill with covid-19. His condition worsened Monday, and he was transferred to intensive care. He was released from intensive care on Thursday but had remained hospitalized.
Johnson thanked the NHS doctors and nurses who cared for him. He cited the lifesaving care of “Jenny from New Zealand” and “Luis from Portugal,” who he said “stood by my bedside for 48 hours when things could have gone either way” and monitored his oxygen levels.
“I have seen the personal courage not just of the doctors and nurses but of everyone, the cleaners, the cooks, the health care workers of every description, physios, radiographers, pharmacists, who have kept coming to work, kept putting themselves in harm’s way, kept risking this deadly virus,” he said.
Johnson’s Conservative Party has been accused of underfunding the NHS, a charge it denies. Restricting non-Brits from working in the United Kingdom was also a common demand among campaigners for Brexit. Johnson was one of the biggest champions of Brexit.
His administration has also come under fire for what critics say was a slow response to the pandemic. Britain lagged other European countries in rolling out strict stay-at-home measures. For much of March, bars, restaurants and gyms remained open despite increasingly dire warnings from hard-hit countries such as Italy.
On Sunday, Johnson had only thanks to give as he praised the British people for adhering to social distancing measures.
“Although we mourn every day those who are taken from us in such numbers, and although the struggle is by no means over, we are now making progress in this incredible national battle against coronavirus,” he said.