Coronavirus: Boris Johnson urged to 'step back if he's not well enough' after PM admitted to hospital

The prime minister has been admitted to hospital for tests after COVID-19 symptoms persisted. (AP)

Boris Johnson has been urged to step back from running the government if he is too ill to stay in charge.

The claims come from a former head of the civil service after the prime minister was admitted to hospital as a “precautionary step” on Sunday evening. Downing Street said the move was made on the advice of Johnson’s doctor.

The PM was diagnosed with coronavirus 11 days ago and a spokeswoman has said he will remain in hospital “as long as needed”.

On Friday he posted a video on Twitter and said he was “feeling better”, but that he would remain in self-isolation until his temperature dropped.

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick told BBC Breakfast on Monday morning that Johnson was “still very much in charge of the government”.

He added: “He spent the night in hospital and of course we all wish him well and we hope that as a result of these tests he will be able to come back to Downing Street as soon as possible.”

Dr Sarah Jarvis, a GP and fellow of the Royal College of General Practitioners, told the BBC it was likely the PM had “moderate” symptoms of coronavirus.

Dr Jarvis, who is not Johnson’s doctor, said: “Given he is staying in charge of the government, that suggests to me that he probably has moderate disease but that, as a precaution, he is being taken in to check the oxygen levels in his blood, to do X-rays and probably scans of his chest.

“And to do blood tests to see, for instance, what his white cell counts look like and what his liver functions look like.”

Johnson's admission comes amid concern he has been pushing himself too hard and insisting on running the government's COVID-19 response.

The former head of the civil service Lord Robert Kerslake said it would be “sensible” for him to “step back” if he is not well enough to carry out his role for now.

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Lord Kerslake told the Today programme: “If he’s not well enough it would be sensible to step back and let others take on the role.”

He added: “I think in the end if he’s not well, he will have to reflect on this because the job’s tough at the best of times and it’s doubly tough now.”

UK coronavirus patient deaths are set to top 5,000 by the end of Monday, with the current confirmed toll at 4,934 as of 5pm on Saturday, up 621 on the day before, according to official figures.

Nearly 48,000 people have tested positive across the country, although the number of people actually suffering the disease is thought to be much higher as only those in hospital and some NHS staff are currently being tested.

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