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The Prime Minister, Fighting for His Life

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson gestures as he delivers a statement at Downing Street after winning the general election, in London, England, December 13, 2019. (Lisi Niesner/Reuters)

Prime minister Boris Johnson, who tested positive for coronavirus eleven days ago, has been moved into the intensive care unit at St Thomas’ Hospital, London. At this writing, he is not known to be on a ventilator. Still, this is extremely serious. The United Kingdom is facing the threat of the century, and its leader is in hospital, fighting for his life.

Yesterday, No. 10 assured the public that the prime minister’s trip to the hospital was a “precautionary” step. But the latest developments, and the speed at which they have occurred, would suggest they are being less than transparent.

According to data from the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre (ICNARC), out of 165 patients treated in the ICU in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland since the end of February, 79 have died and 86 have discharged. Some have reported this as a 50 percent mortality rate, though one clinical epidemiologist, Dr. Tim Crockner-Buque, has explained why he thinks doing so might be “misleading,”

 More accurately [the data] show that of the 21% of those patients who have left critical care, 48% of them had died. However, it excludes the 79% patients who do not have an outcome yet. Importantly, this is not a mortality rate, as described in some media reports, which is a complicated statistic to calculate and requires calculation based on a pre-specified population.

The crude death rate could be calculated, but this still has to be related to an underlying population. So this would be 48% of all the people who have left critical care, but would be 10.2% of all the people who have been admitted to critical care since the start of the outbreak.

When I met Boris Johnson two years ago, he told me that the most noteworthy thing about him is that he is “immensely physically strong.” At the time I thought this funny, perhaps charming. Now I’m praying that it’s true. Godspeed, Boris. Britain needs you.

Madeleine Kearns is a William F. Buckley Fellow in Political Journalism at the National Review Institute. She is from Glasgow, Scotland, and is a trained singer.

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