Boris Johnson has revealed that doctors prepared to announce his death as he battled coronavirus in hospital last month.
The Prime Minister spent three nights in intensive care at St Thomas’ in London with the disease, where he said medics gave him “litres and litres of oxygen”.
He described it as a “tough old moment”, telling the Sun On Sunday: “They had a strategy to deal with a ‘death of Stalin’-type scenario.
“I was not in particularly brilliant shape and I was aware there were contingency plans in place.
“The doctors had all sorts of arrangements for what to do if things went badly wrong.
“They gave me a face mask so I got litres and litres of oxygen and for a long time I had that and the little nose jobbie.”
Mr Johnson, 55, said it was “hard to believe” his health had deteriorated in just a few days, saying he “couldn’t understand why I wasn’t getting better”.
The PM told the paper the “indicators kept going in the wrong direction” and that he kept asking himself: “How am I going to get out of this?”
“The bad moment came when it was 50-50 whether they were going to have to put a tube down my windpipe.
“That was when it got a bit … they were starting to think about how to handle it presentationally.”
He said he was “in denial” initially about how serious his illness was, and that doctors were right to “force” him to go to hospital.
After a fortnight convalescing from the virus, and just two days after he returned to work full-time, his fiancee Carrie Symonds gave birth to their son, Wilfred Lawrie Nicholas Johnson.
They named him after their grandfathers, and two doctors – Dr Nick Price and Prof Nick Hart – who helped save Mr Johnson’s life.
He shared his experience of the disease as the number of people who have died in hospitals, care homes and the wider community after testing positive for Covid-19 in the UK as of 5pm on Friday rose to 28,131, up by 621.
The death toll has edged closer to that of Italy, which now stands at 28,710 and is the highest in Europe, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
And the number of daily tests both concluded and sent out in the last 24 hours dropped to 105,937.
Of those, the number of people tested also fell – down to 63,667.
It comes as questions were raised over how tests are being counted after Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Friday he had met his target for 100,000 Covid-19 tests per day.
– The Telegraph reported that primary schools could reopen as early as June 1. Government sources suggested no firm dates had been set, and Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said at the daily press conference that ministers could not give a date.
– The British Medical Association told the Sunday Times that the lockdown should be eased for healthy over-70s, after Dr Jenny Harries said blanket restrictions on those told to shield would be reviewed.
– Fewer than one in five people believe it is the right time to consider reopening schools, restaurants, pubs and stadiums, a poll for The Observer suggested.
– Former head of the army General Lord Dannatt and ex-chief of the defence staff General Lord Richards backed calls for health workers to be given daily allowances like those given to soldiers in war zones.
Meanwhile, the Communities Secretary said the Government was “optimistic” people will download a phone app to trace the spread of coronavirus.
Robert Jenrick said he thought the “vast majority” of people would download the app and “play their part” – though he insisted it was just one element of the plan to stop the spread.
Contact tracing will be central to the Government’s efforts in slowing the spread of coronavirus, and will involve alerting people who have been in contact with an infected person and asking them to self-isolate.
It has been used extensively in South Korea, Hong Kong and Germany, where outbreaks have been contained more quickly.
The Government intends to use an app and a phone team to carry out the tracing.
Mr Jenrick told the daily Downing Street press conference: “Contact tracing will rely on all of us in society playing our part, but I’m optimistic about the prospects for that.
“This has been a national effort so far – if you think of the different measures that we’ve brought forward, the restrictions, the vast majority of people have got behind it and I think that they will do again when we are able to launch the app on a national scale.”
Deputy chief medical officer Dr Jenny Harries said to get contact tracing “up and running at scale and effectively” is “another significant task but (there is) lots of preparation under way”.