From ‘Fighting for Life’ to ‘National Emergency’: Media Covers PM Johnson’s Move to Intensive Care


Boris Johnson’s admission to an intensive care unit over his worsening coronavirus symptoms is dominating the front pages of the press this morning, with many news outlets opting for really grave stories.

Speculation is running high in the media today not just about Boris Johnson’s worsening condition, as stated by Number 10, but how things are going to unfold in the cabinet, as Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Dominic Raab temporarily assumed the reins of government.

The Daily Mail picked a screenshot of a pale-looking Boris during last week’s conference call, writing above it: “Premier in hospital drama” before breaking the news – quite informally: “Now stricken Boris taken to intensive care”, and the subheading starting off with the expressive “shocks as…”

Inside, the Daily Mail explains how “the crisis over Boris Johnson’s health turned into a full-scale emergency”, recounting that his doctor immediately told him he had to go to hospital after seeing him struggling to breathe on a conference call on Sunday.

Tuesday’s @DailyMailUK #MailFrontPages

— Daily Mail U.K. (@DailyMailUK) April 6, 2020

The Mirror, which put the same picture of the pallid-looking prime minister on its front page, went still further, making its main headline arguably the strongest of all the outlets:

“Sick Boris faces fight for life”, it says across Johnson’s picture.

It says that the PM’s disease “raises some awkward questions” about the way the government is functioning without Johnson, adding that cabinet ministers, who will be in a fight for a potential new role, will never be forgiven for trying to score points off each other.

The Sun, meanwhile opted for all-capitalised “Boris in Intensive Care” while “bulleting” the details of their inside report on the top of the page like “PM forced to take oxygen” or “Docs prepare ventilator”.

Tomorrow’s Front Page: Boris Johnson rushed into intensive care

— The Sun (@TheSun) April 6, 2020

The Express, while opting for a more news-like headline, highlights a comment by BBC journalist Andrew Neil who posted on Twitter a statistic about the dangers of the virus if you have not recovered after 10 days. “This virus either gives up and you recover with no damage done or it really decides to go for you and you have a 50:50 chance. The PM’s decision to work through his isolation will not have helped. Nor loneliness in Downing St”, the BBC host wrote.

Tomorrow’s #frontpage – Boris moved to intensive care as health worsens#tomorrowspaperstoday

— Daily Express (@Daily_Express) April 6, 2020

The more staid press appears to be, expectedly, more neutral in its assessments, offering an approach based on dry facts rather than murky speculation and breeding horror.

The Times, for instance, cites sources saying that Johnson needed four litres of oxygen, which, the paper says, are well below the average threshold of 15 litres and suggests the prime minister’s case is not as serious as some other patients admitted to ICU.

Simon Jenkins, a columnist at The Guardian, in his turn wishes Johnson a speedy recovery but says we must recognise that “the machinery of government is malfunctioning” while Johnson is unwell. Below the paper’s splash headline is a description of the current state of affairs, with The Guardian outlining how the charge of government was handed over to Dominic Raab and that “an empty bed had been prepared” for Johnson since last Thursday.

Per fresh WHO statistics, the UK has seen 47,810 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since early February, with fatalities currently amounting to 4,934.



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